Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Observant Wife

While up in Bar Harbor we ate twice at McKay’s Public House. On the first evening we both ordered beef - Chuck the Beef Carbonade and I the Marinated Bistro Steak. On the second, I ordered the Lobster “Mac & Cheese” (Surprise!) and Chuck ordered the Brandy Braised Pork. Now, I may have been oohing and aahing over my chunks of lobster, nestled in among the al dente Cavatappi, all tossed in a delicate cheese sauce, but I was not so absorbed that I failed to notice Chuck had twice ordered slow cooked meat for his entree. Hmmm... I tend to pan sear and quick grill various cuts of meat. When was the last time I had braised some beef or pork? Because no answer sprang to mind, I knew I needed to remedy the situation.

So, last week, on a trip to Trader Joe’s, I spotted a boneless pork loin roast. It was the pork chop size, not the much smaller tenderloin size. I hesitated just a moment before popping it into the cart. Once home I needed to decide how best to prepare it. I broke the rules and didn’t even bother to pan sear it. Instead I chopped up a couple of onions and tossed them into the roasting pan. I then peeled, cored and chopped a large Granny Smith apple and added it along with some crushed garlic. I opened a can of whole berry cranberry sauce and plopped in about half. I also splashed in some sherry. I dusted the pork roast with salt, pepper and Bell’s Seasoning. After stirring up the onions, apples etc. I placed the pork roast on top, covered the roasting pan and put it in a 275-300 (F) degree oven for a few hours. When it was fork tender I carefully removed the roast from the pan and kept it covered. I then transferred all the makings of my sauce to a shallow sauce pan and let it reduce a bit. I tweaked the seasonings and decided to thicken it just a skosh with a corn starch slurry.

I served the pork roast with its chunky sauce/gravy alongside mashed potatoes and oven roasted brussels sprouts. Chuck pronounced it all just dandy!

Here We Go Again


How I Really Am Just A Lone Voice In The Wilderness

Back in the spring of 2007, I posted the following here on Pink Granite:

Tick, Tock, Stop

The U.S. has begun Daylight Saving Time (DST) weeks earlier this year. The stated rationale is an attempt to save more energy. I don’t buy it. I also don’t like it. Considering how long humans have been keeping time, DST, having been implemented for less than a century, is still a relatively new practice.

Unfortunately, once it caught on in Europe it spread pretty quickly. I realize I’m tilting at windmills, but I wish they would just let nature take its course. Over the last couple of months, since the winter solstice, we have been appreciating the gradual, gentle, generosity of the lengthening of the days. We all notice it. We all appreciate it. Come June, and the summer solstice, we will watch the days wind down equally gently, causing us to cherish twilight, fireflies and that startling first chill in a summer night’s air.

I’m no anarchist. I believe in good government, fair taxes and sensible laws. But I really wish the U.S. government would put more attention and resources into alternative, renewable energy sources and leave my clocks, my days alone.

Tomorrow morning, at 2:00 a.m., we are supposed to turn the clocks back one hour.

It still makes absolutely no sense to me.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


I’ve never been a lake gal, even though for many years I lived near to Lake Champlain in Vermont. I love the ocean; the smell, the sound, the rhythm, the power, the ever changing light. I feel both a sense of peace and energized when I am at the tide’s edge. Living so far from the sea is hard. The ocean is a big part of what draws us back up to Mount Desert Island again and again and again.

We haven’t been home a week and already I miss it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Homarus Americanus

While in Maine we ate a great deal of lobster. Why? (Do I really need to answer why?) It is delicious. It was available and plentiful. It seemed reasonably priced against all other menu options. And, after years of being on the fence, I finally had not just a taste of, but an entire serving’s worth of Lobster Ice Cream. It was very good. But, I doubt I will ever have an entire ice cream cone’s worth again. At Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium they sell their homemade ice cream along with fudge and a wide variety of chocolates. Their Lobster Ice Cream is rather famous and they happily give a sample to those who ask. It’s a simple, buttery ice cream into which buttered bits of lobster are incorporated. It is very rich, but not overpoweringly so. The tiny pieces of lobster are quite perfect. The hiccup comes when you bite into a larger chunk of lobster and you find yourself chewing on - well - frozen lobster. At that moment, it’s a bit disconcerting.

What was the best lobster we had on the trip you ask? That had to be the Lobster Stew and Popovers at Jordan Pond House. Several years ago, our friends Tom & Gale recommended we order it and we have never looked back. When we finished our hike on the Carriage Road last Friday, we made a beeline to the dining room. As logs crackled on the fire in the nearby hearth, we were seated at a window table with a view out to Jordan Pond and The Bubbles. The Stew has lots of lovely lobster in a cream, butter and sherry “broth”. The waitstaff brings out piping hot popovers, which are served with strawberry preserves and butter. I always order a lemonade which is freshly squeezed and accompanied by a tiny pitcher of sugar syrup so you can sweeten it to taste. The relaxed atmosphere in an elegant setting, the good service, the delicious food and that beautiful view make a luncheon or tea at Jordan Pond House a “must do” when traveling to Acadia.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Carriage Roads

It’s been a busy day. I’ve already posted twice, but not yet about our hike on the Carriage Roads in Acadia National Park. There are forty-five miles of Carriage Roads inside the park and several more outside. Along those roads are seventeen beautiful bridges. Chuck began “bagging” those bridges a few years ago. By the end of last Friday afternoon we had been to numbers fifteen and sixteen! This year we went to Cliffside and Amphitheater (via the West Branch bridge which we had been to on a previous walk). They were both lovely, but Cliffside had the added advantage of wonderful vistas. It’s also a comfortable hike. While there are ups and downs along the way, it is not the relentlessly uphill trek we took last year from Jordan Pond to the Deer Brook and Chasm Brook bridges. For Cliffside and Amphitheater you start out at Jordan Pond and head out on the wide crushed stone Carriage Roads to Signpost Number 14 and head toward Signpost 21. (You can download maps and brochures here.)
Here’s a sample of what we saw:

Chuck heading out toward Cliffside

Chuck looking over the edge of Cliffside Bridge

Looking out toward Seal Harbor and the Cranberry Islands

Amphitheater Bridge

Near Signpost 21

Golden foliage framing the ocean beyond

These were uploaded in lower resolution, but they are still “clickable” for a better (and more vivid) view.

Tooth #3

I don’t know how people choose their professions. I imagine some emerge from the womb, daimon in tow (as in James Hillman’s “The Soul’s Code”) and are firmly on their life’s path just past toddlerhood. Some follow in a parent’s footsteps. Others take a circuitous route, trying on one job after another until, like Goldilocks, they find the one which is just right. Some never seem to find their calling.

Happily, our endodontist found his rightful calling. I’ve covered my dental phobias before. I know there are very bad dentists, adequate dentists and exceptional ones. Now I know an exceptionally good endodontist - and that’s not the medication talking! Dr. V. is as Chuck described: intelligent, patient, skilled, compassionate, a natural teacher and he has a sense of humor. Despite Chuck’s reassurance and Chuck being welcomed in the room during my root canal, I was still quite anxious. That anxiety manifested itself as a combination of a deer-in-the-headlights look, nervous laughter, lame jokes and sweaty palms. When Dr. V. sat down after his initial examination to tell me there was a possibility I might lose the tooth entirely, my nervousness ratcheted up several notches. It was during the ensuing discussion about my options that he became aware I was “pre-medicated”. To which he responded: “This is you on Valium?”. “Yes” I said. And then I hit him! Well, it was more like I slugged him gently in the arm amid much laughter and a significant amount of righteous indignation on my part. I mean, I was not curled up in the fetal position in a corner. Nor was I still sitting in the car outside the office. I was in the chair, having signed a consent form to let him do a freakin’ root canal. They give medals for that sort of bravery - don’t they?

Well, the tooth was able to be saved. The root canal was remarkably pain free. Dr. V. is a big proponent of topical anesthetic (Pina Colada flavored no less!) and blessed Novocaine. Truth be told, the procedure was quite interesting. I spelled questions on the palm of my hand to Chuck, who relayed them to Dr. V. He in turn answered each one. Yes, we are a couple of odd ducks and even our personal quirkiness did not phase Dr. V. He just rolled with it - lame jokes, painful puns and all. I told you, the guy is good at his job and we are both very, very grateful.

No On 1 - Protect Maine Equality

A few days ago I posted a video of Philip Spooner of Biddeford, Maine; the World War II Veteran and the father of four sons - one of whom is gay. Today I became aware of another video from the original open testimony hearings on marriage equality. This time it is another father, Paul Redicker (I hope I have spelled that correctly) from Fort Fairfield, Maine. Mr. Redicker fought in Vietnam and is the father of two daughters; one gay, one straight. Once again, a parent makes the case for marriage equality, simply, eloquently and with passion.

Vote NO on 1 - Protect Maine Equality

You can help protect marriage equality in Maine by clicking here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Looking Back

We arrived home late Saturday night, after the traditional stop at L.L. Bean in Freeport of course. Yesterday was a mix of listening to cranky cats complain about a week in the (perfectly lovely) kitty hotel, unpacking, taking a nap, watching the New England Patriots play football in London, England of all places and running off to the Apple store in Hadley to replace the charger for my laptop. Today, the laundry process began. Framing this in the familiar “If they can send men to the moon...” why haven’t they invented a suitcase which doubles as a washing machine? That way, on the ride/flight home, you could pile all your dirty clothes into the magic washing machine suitcase and then, upon arriving home, just hang everything out on the clothesline. Good idea right?

Anyhoo, I’m a little distracted and frankly nervous today, because tomorrow, the second member of this household has to have a root canal. Yes, that’s me. The tooth that needs the crown requires a couple of trips to the endodontist first. I’ve met the doctor. He’s very nice. Chuck assures me he’s very skilled and gentle. And the good doc was gracious enough when we met, to say he hoped he never had to see me professionally. Obviously that did not work out as desired.

So, an abrupt jump-shift in an effort to get my mind off tomorrow, here are a few more photographs from Maine:

Herring Gulls on the rocks at Schoodic

A photogenic crow who allowed me to take his picture

Maple leaf on pink granite

Mussel shell at Otter Cove

Mist above the pond along Park Loop Road

These were uploaded in lower resolution, but they are still “clickable” for a better (and more vivid) view.

Tomorrow, I’ll take you along on our hike on the Carriage Roads...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Packing Up

Yesterday was gray and drizzly. Today was sunny and beautiful. We hiked more of the Carriage Trails beginning at Jordan Pond, as seen above from Jordan Pond House, with The Bubbles in the distance.

Just before sunset, we walked along the Shore Path in Bar Harbor. This photograph shows Balance Rock in the foreground, an accommodating herring gull standing on a rock in the mid-ground right and the Egg Rock Lighthouse in the distance. I told you Bar Harbor and Acadia Rock!

Tomorrow, we head home. Where, with more time and the technology challenges sorted out, I will be able to post more photographs and details.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

No On 1 - Protect Maine Equality

When we first arrived in Maine I was dismayed by all the negative ads on television and the lawn signs promoting "Yes on 1". It began to feel like last year's presidential campaign or this summer's "tea parties". But as the days have passed, we've seen more pro-marriage equality signs with the slogan "No On 1 - Protect Maine Equality" and noticed more television and radio ads in the same vein.

Today I became aware of this footage of Philip Spooner of Biddeford, Maine. Mr. Spooner is a World War II Veteran, a Veterans of Foreign Wars Chaplain, a widower and the father of four sons - one of whom is gay. The video is very moving and sums up the fight for marriage equality simply and eloquently.

Vote NO on 1 - Protect Maine Equality

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Another Beauty

The weather here on Mount Desert Island has been wonderful. Lots of sun, mild temperatures and even when the clouds have rolled in, the visibility has been super. Today we drove over to the Schoodic Peninsula, which includes another part of Acadia National Park. The description I wrote about our visit back in 2007 will give you a good feel for our day today.

The internet remains a challenge and now my laptop has developed a problem with the charger, so it’s possible that I may not be able to post and upload photos until we return home. Is there a patron saint of technology I should be praying to???

Here’s the view from Cadillac Mountain looking down on Bar Harbor, the Porcupines and a cruise ship. It’s our favorite alfresco/al-automobile picnic spot.

This gray squirrel may not be a moose, but he is “wildlife”.

Chuck snapped this view of the picnic area near the entrance to Acadia on Schoodic.

Herring gulls over Schoodic, with Mount Desert in the distance

Granite and evergreens on Schoodic

Pine cones

From Route 1, looking over to Cadillac Mountain on Mount Desert Island

Sunset with gulls at Seal Harbor

Moonrise in Bar Harbor

These were uploaded in low resolution, but they are still “clickable” for a better (and more vivid) view.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Glimpse...

The internet odyssey/oddity continues. (Morgan I’m pedaling as fast as I can!) So I’m uploading just three photos from today.

The view from the top of Cadillac Mountain, looking out toward the Cranberry Islands

Maple trees in all their autumn glory at Jordan Pond House

Near sunset at Seal Harbor

I had to upload these in very low resolution, but they are still “clickable” for a better (and more vivid) view.

Monday, October 19, 2009


We’re here in Bar Harbor! On the ride up, the traffic was pretty light and it was sunny, cool and lovely all day. We’re getting settled in at the hotel, but what was advertised as “high speed internet access” should have been listed as “higher speed internet access than Fred Flintstone ever had in his lifetime”! Sigh... Yes, I am tethered to my technology - happily so. ;o)

We’ll head into Acadia tomorrow, camera at the ready. With any luck I’ll be able to share a few photographs tomorrow evening.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Getting Ready

Things have been a little busy around here the last couple of days. We’ve been packing and getting ready for our annual autumn trip up to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park in Maine. We managed to get the cats up to their “Kitty Hotel”, despite some protestations and an unseasonably snowy nor’easter. With trees in still near full leaf, we feel lucky to have gotten only about an inch of heavy wet snow. Much more, and we would have been at risk of downed tree limbs and possible power outages. Happily, the weather forecast is much more pleasant as the week goes on.

We’re staying at a different hotel from the ones we stayed at on the last two trips. In addition to hoping it’s clean, quiet and comfortable, I’ve got my fingers crossed the internet access is swift and reliable. If so, I’ll be able to post pics as we go along. Because we are such creatures of habit you can get a feel for what we hope to be doing this week by clicking here for October 22 - 27, 2008 and here for October 15 - 26, 2007!

Fun With Photoshop

I promised Sue that I would pass along any nifty Photoshop tips and techniques. I found one which seems to have limitless possibilities. Over at Ree’s Pioneer Woman blog, if you’re able to tear yourself away from the recipes and the love story, you’ll find her photography page. Recently she has been focusing on adding textures to photographs. The reader examples she has been posting have been fabulous and inspiring (start here). Happily, back in June, she offered a texture tutorial by Jodi Friedman of MCP Actions. It’s a very clear tutorial with lots of screen shots. The nice thing is you can keep the web page up in the background of your computer screen, while you try the techniques in Photoshop in the foreground.

Here’s the very first thing I tried using a photo from Washington state as posted last November:

And here it is “aged” and “textured” using Jodi’s downloadable “Rust” and “Brick” photos as texture overlays.

Have fun!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Rags To Litter

Chuck reached into his closet the other night to pull out a dress shirt to wear to see Pilobolus. The first to hand was a button down tattersall from L.L. Bean in beige and green. As he was buttoning it up, Chuck noticed the cuffs were more than just lightly frayed, they had split apart in the last wash! Upon closer inspection we found more fraying and wear - too much to make it an appropriate donation. But that green and beige colorway caught my eye. I asked if he minded if I used it for a little sewing project. He agreed it was all mine.

What is it with me and turning tired clothing into something else? I’ve never been a real patchwork quilter. But I am drawn to recycle items into something useful. Actually useful and cute is the real winner. This time, I had been wanting to make a litter bag for our car. The cheesy plastic one from a car wash which we had been using was a mess. Plus, it never stayed where we put it. So I took the tattersall and combined it with a previously retired and very holey chamois shirt and sewed it up. I dimensioned the bag so that a plastic zipper bag slips inside as a liner. The handle is actually the button placket! Yup, useful and cute!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Can You Hear A Dial Tone?

On Friday, October 9, 2009, Verizon laid off 200 technicians in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. In the current economy, that number may not seem newsworthy - unless you’re one of the 200 employees who are suddenly out of work - and of course their families. The IBEW states that there are contract violations and they will be seeking independent arbitration. Despite being a strong union supporter, in this instance there is another thread of this story which is of equal interest to me.

Back on September 17, 2009, according to Saul Hansell of the New York Times, Verizon Communications CEO Ivan Seidenberg reportedly said Verizon “was simply no longer concerned with telephones that are connected with wires.” He also said “We can begin to look at eliminating central offices, call centers and garages.”

Back in May it was reported that Verizon was working to sell its land lines in Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin to Frontier Communications of Stamford, Connecticut. But there have been plenty of problems up in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont ever since FairPoint Communications bought those states’ land lines from Verizon back in 2007. One big one is FairPoint coming to the brink of bankruptcy. As David Brooks of the Nashua Telegraph reported “The possibility of bankruptcy has caused enough concern that legislative officials from the three states are scheduled to meet in Concord on November 12th to discuss what this might mean for Northern New England's telecommunications.”

So, back in May, Verizon stated “jurisdictions that will not be part of the [Frontier] transaction:  Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas and Virginia, plus most of California.” But because last month Verizon Communications CEO Seidenberg clearly described his feeling of being “liberated” from a focus on land lines, shouldn’t Massachusetts Governor Patrick, Rhode Island Governor Carcieri and Connecticut Governor Rell see if the Northern New England Governors have room for three more at their November 12th meeting?

Blog Action Day

Today is Blog Action Day 2009. The goal is to have bloggers from around the world focus on one issue. The topic this year is “Climate Change”. Even The White House Blog and Prime Minister Gordon Brown are participating. Roo wrote about the enormous positive impact he and Peter experienced by not using their dishwasher. And recently, Morgan wrote about a lifetime of hanging laundry out to dry and her feeling of being a bit of an eco-warrior - or anarchist!

So what do we do to try to lessen our carbon footprint and stop ticking off Mother Nature? Lots of little things: Bringing our own reusable shopping bags to stores; using cloth napkins; keeping the heat low at 54F (12C) overnight and no higher than 64F (18C) during the day; replacing old appliances with efficient EnergyStar ones; line drying laundry; getting our furnace cleaned and serviced every year; combining multiple errands in one car trip; and making sure our car is serviced and the tires properly inflated. Those are the ones that come to mind. No single action by one individual suddenly gets us “back to the garden”. But all those small actions, done repeatedly, by millions of people do add up into something which begins to draw a glimmer of a smile from Mother Nature. Let’s keep up the good work!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Marriage Equality In Maine

Here in Massachusetts we’ve had marriage equality since 2004.

As I’ve written previously, one of the most specious arguments against gay marriage has been proffered by a number of socially conservative groups, including the Roman Catholic Church and the Mormons. The legality of same sex marriage in no way intrudes upon who the Church, or any other religious organization, allows to marry. Yet they continue to inveigh that same sex marriage is an attack on the family and undermines the sacrament of marriage. In our experience, nothing could be further from the truth. Allowing more couples to publicly affirm their commitment and enter into legal marriages can only serve to strengthen our society.

Turns out, I’m right!

As Bruce Wilson wrote recently in the Huffington Post:
“According to the most recent data from the National Center For Vital Statistics, Massachusetts retains the national title as the lowest divorce rate state, and the Massachusetts divorce rate is about where the U.S. divorce rate was in 1940...”

Now the state of Maine is fighting for marriage equality. Here’s how the folks at Protect Maine explain it:

“On May 6, 2009 Maine ended discrimination in marriage for same-sex couples. This victory was the result of thousands of people who came forward to support marriage for all Maine families. The legislature and Governor followed the people's lead and passed this landmark legislation.

But the fight is not over. Opponents of marriage equality want to turn back the clock. They are working to place a measure on the ballot - modeled after California's Prop 8 - to take away the right of same-sex couples to marry in Maine.

This November, voters will be asked:

"Do you want to reject the new law that lets same-sex couples marry and allows individuals and religious groups to refuse to perform these marriages?"

Answer: Vote NO on 1.”

For five years we have had same sex marriage in Massachusetts. The sky did not fall. Lightning did not strike. Go to Protect Maine to see how you can help Maine to enjoy marriage equality as well. Let’s not see a repeat of California’s discriminatory Proposition 8.

Vote NO on 1 - Protect Maine Equality

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It Should Have Been SRO

Tonight Chuck and I went to see Pilobolus in Worcester. I wish I could tell you they will be in town for a week or two so you could rush out and secure tickets, but unfortunately it was just the single performance. The Pilobolus * Dance Theatre began at Dartmouth College in 1971. They have been dazzling audiences ever since. Tonight’s performance was at the recently reborn Hanover Theatre. The five dances the company of seven performed tonight were first conceived in five different years, ranging from 1971 to 2008. Each one was separate and distinct and each one immediately drew you in.

The Pilobolus dancers were stunningly sensual, while never overtly sexual. No gaunt, fragile waifs, they were staggeringly athletic with strong, beautiful bodies. They clearly know and understand every muscle within their corporeal instruments and seem to push them to both a physical and artistic limit. I am not a dance enthusiast or devotee. One need not be so in order to appreciate the instantly accessible dances, many open to multiple interpretations. The feelings evoked ranged from whimsical and witty to meditative and solemn all the way to figuratively electrifying with tonight’s finale piece “Megawatt” (2004).

The five men and two women dancers move individually, in pairs, triads, quartets and en masse. Sometimes they appear to be one form, tumbling as if a multi-bodied human wheel. At other moments, two dancers become the axle for the third dancer between them to glide and walk in midair. Frequently performing in a pair of triads consisting of one woman and two men each, the movements of each trio were sometimes identical, but more often complementary. The movements of one triad might be several beats behind the first group, which came to feel like echoes or reflections and afforded the opportunity to absorb the powerful performances. The few times the dancers were deliberately synchronized were jaw dropping. How could they possibly move in such unusual and taxing ways simultaneously? In the contemporary vernacular of popular culture, it would be easy to compare Pilobolus to the Transformers, but without the CGI effects!

The pacing of the show was unusual and very satisfying. The curtain fell after each dance and the house lights were brought up. A few moments later the lights dimmed once again and the curtain rose on the next piece - a sort of visual and emotional palate cleanser, if you will. The choreography was sensational. Clearly the dancers rehearse such that every move is second nature, yet it constantly felt intuitive, creative and spontaneous. The costuming was light, in that it was delicate and unintrusive. The lighting was simple, yet effective and the dancers sometimes danced in the shadows or darker sections of the stage, again reminding me of echoes and providing depth, with just a hint of wistfulness that we might be “missing” something! My only minor complaint was with the sound. The music itself for the four accompanied dances was great. But the sound system of the theater, or perhaps that of the dance company, had a slight and occasional tinniness or buzz to it.

As the title of this post indicates, The Hanover Theatre was not standing room only tonight. It should have been. Both Pilobolus and the theater itself deserved a full house. The Hanover is perfectly sized and the 1904 building has been exquisitely restored to its glorious historical reincarnation of 1925 . The staff and volunteers are all welcoming, cheerful and obviously enthusiastic supporters of the venue. We were seated in the center orchestra section on the aisle. The seats were comfortable, there was generous (and much appreciated) legroom and the rake of the hall allowed for unobstructed views of the stage. We toured the lower balcony level at intermission and in between admiring the elaborate plaster, gilded and wrought iron decorations, enjoyed the view from the loge and boxes. Parking, at $10.00, was easy in the Federal Square garage across the street. And having Worcester’s finest managing the crosswalks and traffic on Main and Southbridge Streets allowed arrival and departure to go smoothly, even graciously.

The audience tonight consisted of all ages from perhaps nine to nineties. Dress ranged from men in jackets and ties and women in dresses and evening accessories to folks in casual everyday jeans and sweaters. The Hanover may have been at well less than capacity, but we raised the roof as we leapt to our feet, offered sustained applause, loud whoops and Bravo’s, when the dancers joined hands for their final bow!

* While in performance the Pilobolus dancers were sufficiently clothed; they are less so on the website. Nothing indelicate, but I have been advised the site may be NSFW (Not Safe For Work)!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Blue About Red

The Boston Red Sox lost today. That means, as far as our Red Sox are concerned, the major league baseball season is over. We are not happy campers in this neck of the woods. The photo above is the cheeriest thing I could muster.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


It was already dark. (We really are heading appreciably toward the shortest day here in the Northern Hemisphere.) We were driving home from walking over at the high school track. Chuck had the Subaru’s high beams on, which was a very good thing. As we approached a stretch of road with water on both sides, we noticed something large and dark in the road. Chuck slowed the car, bringing it to a full stop. It was a beaver, all sleek and shiny and low to the ground, moving quite deliberately across the road. It was completely unperturbed by us or the car’s idling engine and bright lights. It looked neither left nor right. It was concentrating entirely on the task at hand: the beaver was dragging a tree from one side of the road to the other. It was a sapling, with its orange and red autumn leaves bobbing in the breeze, as the beaver steadily transported it across the asphalt, from the side of the road with the small body of water, to the side with the more capacious pond.

Yes, I’ve lived in rural Massachusetts long enough to know that beavers can wreak enormous amounts of havoc. At that moment, I could not have cared less. I was dazzled. As soon as the last trembling twigs of the sapling disappeared into the marshy growth, I applauded. I could almost hear the beaver, paddling over to the lodge and calling out: “Hi Honey, I’m home! I brought you that birch you admired earlier!”

North American Beaver (castor canadensis). For the absolutely, hands down, best photograph click here!

Friday, October 9, 2009

President Obama Awarded Nobel Peace Prize

We woke to the news streaming across the crawl on the bottom of the NECN screen. Chuck was the first to spot it. We both exclaimed with a mixture of surprise and delight. Because we were rushing around to get ready to go to Rhode Island, all I had time to do was Tweet: “President Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy & cooperation between people"!” But as I hurried to make breakfast and get out the door, George Gershwin’s line kept running through my mind: “No, no, they can’t take that away from me...” I smiled as I realized what my subconscious was cogitating. I went to the bottom of the stairs and called up to Chuck: “They can never take that away from him!”

Ronnie in South Africa Tweeted at me: “So chuffed [pleased or proud] about the news of Pres obama! Your thoughts? It's a big prize to live up to...” Much later, I replied: “We are thrilled! Yes, it is early, but he steadied the ship of state during the transition & has reached out to the world!”

Are there ironies and incongruities in President Obama having been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize? Yes. Is it premature? No. “Unlike the other Nobel Prizes, which recognize completed scientific or literary accomplishment, the Nobel Peace Prize may be awarded to persons or organizations that are in the process of resolving a conflict or creating peace.” Am I proud? Yes! I am proud of President Obama and honored that a sitting President of the United States has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize!

But it was President Obama who struck all the right notes this morning when he began his remarks this way: “Well, this is not how I expected to wake up this morning.  After I received the news, Malia walked in and said, "Daddy, you won the Nobel Peace Prize, and it is Bo's birthday!"  And then Sasha added, "Plus, we have a three-day weekend coming up."  So it's good to have kids to keep things in perspective.”

He continued: “I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the Nobel Committee.  Let me be clear:  I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations. 

To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize -- men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.

But I also know that this prize reflects the kind of world that those men and women, and all Americans, want to build -- a world that gives life to the promise of our founding documents.  And I know that throughout history, the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it's also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes.  And that is why I will accept this award as a call to action -- a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century.”

Near his conclusion he said: “...this award must be shared with everyone who strives for justice and dignity...”

That sounds like the man I voted for. That sounds like someone who takes the honor of being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize seriously, with humility and with increased determination to work doggedly to do what is needed for our nation domestically and to live up to this award internationally.

You can read the full transcript and watch the video of President Obama’s remarks here.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Today is a milestone for me.
This is my 1,000th post!
I began Pink Granite on November 25, 2006. I explained how I came to have a blog in a post back in January of 2007. I wasn’t sure how long it would last. I wasn’t sure where it would go or where it would take me or what would happen. But I felt very strongly that it was a good fit for me. 1,000 posts later, I still feel that way.

As I’ve written on my two previous “blogiversaries”, those of you who stop by, read and comment here on Pink Granite enhance and enrich this experience profoundly. Without you, yes, I’d likely still be blogging away as eclectically as ever, but it would just be me talking to myself! Thank you for welcoming me into your communities and for being part of this one.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Power To The Pantry!

Our pantry is important. It doubles as both a food pantry and storage area for what normally lives in “modern” kitchen cabinets. But we don’t have kitchen cabinets - modern or otherwise. We do have a closet in the dining room where all our dishes and glassware live. And we’ve got the pantry. It’s an old house, with an even older kitchen, which is part of the original building. Another reason our pantry has to work extra hard is the fact we live about 25 minutes from the nearest big supermarket. There is a small grocery store and a convenience store nearby where we can purchase any basics we run out of. But when we grocery shop, we tend to stock up.

So it’s not unusual to find me standing in our pantry, just before dinnertime, staring intently at the contents of the shelves. As a result of this intense staring (and being snowed in from time to time) I have created a number of “pantry only” meals. One of them is Mexican Soup, which is also known as Chicken Tortilla Soup. I first started making it many years ago after the craving for Tortilla Soup from the original Miguel’s Restaurant in Bar Harbor, Maine became irresistible. I’ve made it many different ways, but the following is the “pantry only” version - well, except for the cheese!

Lee’s Wicked Easy Mexican Soup

Olive oil
chopped onions
crushed garlic
Old El Paso Chopped green chiles, 7 oz
Muir Glen Diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes, 28 oz
Chicken Broth, 14 0z
Beef Broth (OR Veggie broth), 14 oz
Goya Black Beans - rinsed, 15 oz
Kuner’s Refried Black Beans with Lime Juice, 15 oz
Dried Cumin
Mexican Style Chili Powder
Chipotle Powder
Tabasco Chipotle Sauce
Cocoa Powder (adds a nice depth of flavor)
Pinch of Sugar
Trader Joe’s Premium Chunk Chicken, 12 oz (lightly shredded with a fork)

Tortilla chips
Shredded Mexican cheese (Sargento’s is good)

Start the onions, garlic and olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Once the onions have softened, add the remaining canned ingredients, except the chicken. Allow the ingredients to simmer, stirring periodically to keep the beans from settling on the bottom of the pot. Taste the soup and begin adding the seasonings according to taste. Once you have the soup seasoned properly, go ahead and add the chicken and continue to let the soup simmer.

In soup bowls, lightly crush a few tortilla chips. Sprinkle some shredded cheese onto the chips. Ladle the soup over the chips and cheese and serve immediately.

This makes a substantial pot of soup. But it freezes beautifully.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

RTF As Breadcrumbs

I was working on a digital art project today which suddenly stalled. I wanted to try a particular effect in Photoshop CS3, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember how to get there. It was something I knew I had done before which added to the frustration. So I plugged in my external hard drive where I keep my digital art and scrapbooking files. (Without the EHD, my laptop’s hard drive would have long ago burst forth like Lucy Ricardo’s bread did in her kitchen!) When I create a digital scrapbooking page, a greeting card or any sort of digital art, I make a separate folder for it. I found the folder I was looking for. It held four experiments I had done working with a photograph of autumn leaves. In addition to the four Photoshop files, I also had a Rich Text Format document (RTF) in the folder. On that little no frills document I had typed up each step, filter and setting I had used in each of the digital experiments. Sure enough, there, under #4, was the previously elusive setting of Filter > Distort > Glass > Texture > Blocks which I had been hunting for.

Moral of the story? Create an RTF doc and jot down what you did. With all the fun things to play with in Photoshop Elements or CS3, some nifty technique could easily fall by the wayside. But with the RTF you can find your way back.

Here’s an example of what I was working with (using a photo from Lexington) - which after all that and all that, isn’t what I finally settled on!

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Right To Dry

...air dry that is - your clothes on a clothesline.

It was only recently I learned that it is actually illegal in some places for a person to hang their clothes out on a clothesline. Really. Here’s a video from CBS Sunday Morning. Here’s an article from the New York Times and another from the Baltimore Sun. It’s not just here in the United States. It’s also an issue in Australia and other countries.

When we moved to this house, it had a clothesline outside. But it was about as far away from the laundry room as it could possibly be. The few times I used it, I hated finding bird poop on my freshly laundered clothes and linens. So at some point, Chuck strung a laundry line on our screened front porch. Plenty of fresh air, a fair amount of sunshine, no worries about rain and there was no more risk of surprise splats! But even with that convenience it still took our dryer going on the fritz to get me into the swing of things with hanging laundry. Now I really enjoy it. Chuck put up a total of three sort of zig-zag lines which is just the right number of line feet for a washing machine load’s worth of laundry.

: : If you’d like to learn more about line drying - the practical, the environmental and the political check out Project Laundry List.
: : If you’re part of the Twitterverse, you can follow Project Laundry List on Twitter.
: : For inspiration go to LineDry.
: : And if you’d like to sign a petition to get the White House to bring back their clotheslines, you can go to Mrs. Obama has been doing a great job with the White House vegetable garden. Why not have an environmentally friendly clothesline nearby?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The First

In Lexington, Massachusetts, the first battle of our Revolutionary War was fought on April 19, 1775. It was part of what became known as the Battles of Lexington and Concord. The Colonial Militiamen drove back the British Army. It was an effective start to a long war which came close to ending when General Cornwallis surrendered to the Americans in 1781. But did not officially end until the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783 and was subsequently ratified by Congress in 1784.

This memorial was created by Bashka Paeff and was dedicated “to the Lexington Minute Men who were on the Green in the early morning engagement”. It stands near the Buckman Tavern, across from the Battle Green in Lexington. It is an unusual sculpture and tremendously effective in capturing the intensity of the Colonial Militia’s guerilla warfare against the British Red Coats.

These Minute Men are my heroes. Stories of their struggles and triumphs blanketed my childhood, right alongside tales of the then bounteous numbers of Catholic saints. Add in my immigrant ancestors, the founding fathers of this nation, the subsequent presidents, one pope and the regular GIs and their leaders during World War II to the mix and you have my list of most powerful influences. They all shaped the woman I became. Their collective courage inspired me, as did their fierce, sometimes overwhelming clarity of right versus wrong.

Standing in Lexington, gazing at Ms. Paeff’s stunning relief, I was reminded of that courage and sacrifice, and I was humbled.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Orange On The Green

With the increase in crisp, cool, breezy days I’m beginning to believe autumn is well and truly here. When I see a tree, like this maple on the Battle Green in Lexington, Massachusetts, I have no doubt.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Above Us All

Driving home tonight, not all that long after darkness had fallen, I watched the moon glide in and out of clouds. Sometimes it was just a diffuse glow behind thick cotton, then, free of all obstructions, stark and vivid against a black sky. Occasionally, it was surrounded by a halo, a creamy gossamer ice ring on this crisp autumn night. When we arrived home I reached for the camera. Chuck kindly brought me my walking stick so that I could use it as an improvised monopod. The moon is nearly, but still not quite full. No matter. It’s there. It’s above us all, reflecting, influencing, guiding and it’s beautiful.