Wednesday, October 29, 2008


My friend Bonnie arrived yesterday in time for dinner. I roasted a chicken, with stuffing even, and baked an apple pie. Both were yummy, if I do say so myself. I so seldom cook these days. Hardly seems worth it just for me. It's nice to have a reason to cook and nice to have leftovers!

Today we went into DC via the Metro (subway). I used to ride Metro all the time, but haven't been into the city much since I retired. Things have changed some with the parking lots, but we managed to buy our fare cards and arrived at our destination - a store called The Peruvian Connection. It has lovely sweaters and other clothes mostly made in Peru. Also some dishes and pillow cases. It's a bit pricey for me, but the things were gorgeous. Bonnie bought a wonderful outfit. The building has very distinctive architecture outside and is interesting inside, with exposed brick walls and high ceilings. They use antique Peruvian pottery as wall decorations. I loved the place, but I didn't buy anything. I was tempted, though.

Bonnie took me out to lunch - at a seafood house. I had a wonderful seafood stir fry with shrimp, scallops, fish and vegetables in a ginger sauce. Delicious! After lunch we went into the American Art Museum, which was right across from the restaurant. I had never even heard of the place, although I worked downtown for years. They had a special exhibit contrasting paintings by Georgia O'Keefe with photographs by Ansel Adams. Although they both worked in the West, mostly they are very different artists. Her work is all broad strokes of color with most detail smoothed over. His photos are black and white and very detailed. But some of their pieces (of adobe churches, for instance) were rather similiar. A fascinating exhibit. The museum is fairly small - just the right size for a couple of hours of relaxing touring. And it's part of the Smithsonian, so it's free!

Bonnie brought her cocker spaniel with her. It was a bit odd having an animal in the house again, but her dog is a cutie and very friendly. I'll miss him when she leaves in the morning. (well, of course, I'll miss her too, but we do correspond, so we stay in touch.) I don't want a pet again, but it's been fun having one for a couple of days. We took the dog for a long walk this evening along a nearby river. The leaves have turned lovely fall colors along that path. It was pretty cold today, but the predicted snow never did arrive. I thought I saw flakes once in the city, but probably it was just dirt in the air!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

house cleaning

I have a friend coming to visit next week, so I am using her visit as impetus to clean my house. I enjoy having a clean and dust free house, but I truly hate wasting time doing the cleaning. Basically, I do a lot of picking up, straightening up and spot cleaning on a regular basis. I only do major cleaning a few times a year - when I am changing my seasonal decorations or when company is coming. So this morning, I started dusting in the living room. I then moved through the dining room (not much to do there) and to the kitchen. I started just wiping one countertop, but somehow it escalated and I ended up moving all the stuff off and really cleaning. I don't know what got into me! I removed the burner pans and cleaned the stove. Even took a swipe at the fridge, although I didn't touch the freezer. (It has so much stuff piled in it that one cannot see if it's clean or not!) At this point the kitchen looks really good, except for the floor. Floors are next on my next list and I hope to get them done today. However, I will have to clean the upstairs tomorrow. I'm winding down fast now. Bathrooms are on the list, too, although the guest bath is pretty clean, as no one has used in quite a while. I really miss Andy (my 2nd husband, now living in Virginia) when it comes to house cleaning. He did the vacuuming, which I hate, and also the bathrooms. On the other hand, since he's not here tracking in oil and dirt from his job, I don't have to clean as often, so I guess it's an even trade.

We are getting a bit of rain today and a lot of wind. Interestingly, the temperatures are much warmer than the last few days. It's shirt-sleeve weather today, although it's a bit wet to be outside. A last gasp of summer, perhaps.

My studio is coming along. With the help of two neighborhood boys, I got my desk out of my car, finally, and into the house. I slid it down the stairs and it's in place in the studio. Fits perfectly. Today I tacked up an old plastic tablecloth on the wall, so that if clay, glaze or water splatters, it won't soak into the unfinished wallboard. If I ever get the clay recycled, I can actually work there.

Friday, October 24, 2008

in the newspaper

I wasn't going to write this morning, but there were some gems in the paper that I found interesting, amusing or outrageous and I just couldn't resist sharing them. Kate will tell you that Iused to send these to her regularly. Now she has to read my blog. :) I'm sure you will have already seen or heard some of these. Let's start off with the only political one - Sarah Palin's wardrobe. How in the world can anyone spend $150,000 on a wardrobe and makeover? As a woman who only buys designer clothes when they are in the thrift shops, this simply boggles my mind! If she were the Vice-President or the wife of a President (remember Jackie Kennedy?) and were spending her own money on clothes and whatever, it would be nothing too unusual. We all know that VERY RICH PEOPLE do exist and some of them are probably nice folks. I've never known any personally, so cannot speak from experience. I am sure that their values are somewhat different from mine, especially when it comes to clothes. Furthermore, this makeover had to be a mistake. Sarah Palin was supposed to represent the working class, soccer mom. Ha! I don't know very many of them who wear designer clothes, do you?

Next is about early voting. This is an experiment that some states are trying. Maryland is not one of them, as far as I know. Anyway, in Florida, lots of folks decided, for whatever reason, to try voting early. Perhaps they hoped to avoid long lines on Election Day. Boy did they make a mistake! Lines in some Florida cities were VERY long and people waited hour and hours in order to vote. The good thing about this is the enthusiasm these people have for voting. They didn't get mad and go home without voting. They waited and voted. So often, here in the US, our registered voters are indifferent and so a rather small percentage of eligible voters actually vote. Seems as if this year that may be different. I sure hope so. It's about time we Americans realized how important our right to vote is. Too many places in the world don't have that right. Power to the voters! My feeling is this - if you didn't vote, then you can't complain about what Congress or the President (or your mayor) does.

And here's something we haven't heard ever before. Alan Greenspan is admitting that perhaps he was wrong in opposing any forms of control on the derivitives market. (At least I think that's what he is saying. I'm not real sure when it comes to economics.) A week or two ago, I blogged about the one person who tried to get the 'experts' to let her agency supervise derivitives. (Brooksley Born of the CTFC). Greenspan hasn't exactly said that she was right, but he is admitting that perhaps he wasn't quite the expert that everyone thought he was. We used to think he was God in the world of economics. Now, he's just another failable human being.

On a local level - an experiment is being tried in southern Maryland with teenage drivers. Video cameras are put into the cars that the teens drive. The cameras focus both on the road and on the inside of the car. If a sudden maneuver - like braking sharply or turning very fast - is made, the device records what has happened and posts the information on a website that the parents can access. Otherwise, nothing is saved from the video. As you might imagine, some teens whose parents have put these cameras in the cars are very upset. Actually, the article only quotes two girls - one is furious with her parents, but I noticed that she still drives the car. The other says she didn't like it at first, but that she has become a better driver as a result. She has not been 'caught' by the camera doing anything wrong, but she says it makes her more conscious of how she drives. The issue that didn't come up at all in the article is this: Why do these teens think they deserve a car anyway? Have they lost the ability to walk? My daughter had a car her last two years of high school, but only because her father gave her on old one that had been her step-mother's. Kate was a good driver and at that time insurance coverage for girls was pretty cheap, so I didn't object. My son did not even have a driver's license until he graduated, because he spent several years at a military school where they were not allowed cars. I refused to pay the extra cost of insurance just so he could drive during vacations. Going further back, (I know I am being a 'dinosaur' about this) when I was a teenager (in the dark ages, otherwise known as the 1950s) almost none of my friends had cars that were actually theirs. Many of us were allowed to drive the families second car to evening activities, but never during the day to school. In fact, students had to have special permission to park a car in the school parking lots. Very few kids did so. This was even more true at the college I attended. Students just didn't have cars. Somehow we all managed to survive without them. How times have changed!

And one more item that shows just how different today's world is. Two Dutch teenage boys were convicted of theft because they forced another teenager at knifepoint to transfer virtual treasures to them - in a video game. Evidently virtual theft is real! Who knew? They got probation, not a virtual or real jail sentence.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

shopping big-time

Yesterday afternoon, I went with Patty and her mother to BJ's - one of those membership discount stores. I used to have a membership there, but found that I bought far too many large amounts of food products, which eventually went bad before I could use them. How can one person use up 8 jars of olives before the sale date? Anyway, about once a year, I go with Patty and stock up on mostly items that will keep. If you've never been to BJ's or Cosco you might have trouble imagining the store. It's huge - like a warehouse - and has primarily food products and medicines. They even have baked goods and very nice produce. Also some non-food items like TVs, electronics, clothes, books, etc. The catch with the food and drug items, is that they are all in very large packages. I bought toilet paper - 32 rolls, I think. Eight boxes of tissues. These things will keep, of course, but they did take up a bit of room to store. Since I don't have a freezer (except in the top of my fridge), I don't buy much frozen stuff or meat products. This time I rather overdid it on the frozen low-cal dinners, the Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches, and frozen blueberries. Blueberries, as you know, are supposed to be especially good for us, but fresh ones this time of year are outrageously expensive. The frozen ones will do fine on my breakfast cereal. However, when I got home and started putting things away, I wasn't sure I would get all my frozen items into my little freezer. They made it - just barely. Guess I'd better start eating those blueberries right away!

Even before I got home, I knew I had bought too much stuff. (Actually, that idea came to me at the cash register!) My mini-van was already somewhat full of: three bags of books are going to the hospital gift shop where we sell used books; a HUGE bag of plastic bags that I can't seem to remember to return to be recycled at the grocery store; a folding chair that just stays in the car, various car related items, and at the moment, a desk! I got this very cheaply at a local thrift store where it was loaded into the back of my van. This will be my work table in my ceramics studio, if I ever get the thing out of the car and down into my basement. Hopefully, my young strong neighbor will come over one of these evenings and take it down for me. I don't mind driving around with a desk in my car, but I really would like to get in into the studio. With my car loaded up already, perhaps you can see why putting all my purchases in there too was an interesting exercise in creative stuffing. It reminded me of years ago when college students would compete to see how many people could get into a VW beetle or into a phone booth. (For younger readers: phone booths were wooden boxes that sat on street corners and contained phones that anyone could use by putting coins into a slot in the phone. I think they are found only in antique stores now.)

I walked twice yesterday - not counting the hour of wandering around BJ's. Walked through the woods and around the ponds at Patuxent Wildlife Center with my friend Bill. We don't walk very fast, as the trails through the woods are tricky - tree roots and fallen leaves. I, who am likely to trip just walking around my house, am fairly cautious walking along unpaved paths. It's a lovely walk. The trees are beginning to turn and we saw a Great Blue Heron as well as many Canada Geese. One gaggle of geese had a leader who was white - obviously a domestic goose, gone over to the wild side!

Then after our shopping expedition, Patty, her mother and I walked around my favorite lake in Columbia. It's on our way home, so it was a good choice for our evening walk. There were still a few people on the trails, but the sun was setting as we finished. That was beautiful, as we watched the sunset on the water. The yellow and brown tree leaves look golden in the setting sun. Next time I must take my camera. Not much wild life on that walk. We did see another Great Blue Heron. The white egrets seem to have gone south for the winter. I haven't seen one this week at all. I'll see them again - hundreds of them - if I get to Florida this winter.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

switching papers

When I moved to Laurel, 7 years ago, I switched from subscribing to the Washington Post to the Baltimore Sun. Laurel is just about equidistant from Washington and Baltimore, but I found that the Sun had more news articles about Maryland than the Post. The Post, being the paper for the capital of the US devotes a lot of space to politics. Anyway, I was very happy with the Sun until recently when, due I'm sure to fiscal constraints, they made radical changes in the paper. I won't go into detail, but will just say that the number of pages decreased radically (probably by one third to one half), the format went from 6 columns per page to 4, and they introduced a number of changes, which in my eyes, ended up 'dumbing down' the paper. So, I called them and cancelled and then took advantage of an offer from the Post to get really a cheap subscription for a couple of months. I've now been reading the Post for about a week and, although I do find there is too much political news, considering we are only a few weeks away from our Presidential election, all the papers are full of politics. So, I am adjusting to the Post and like it much better than the "new, improved" Sun. Yesterday I received a large envelope that turned out to be from the Sun. It included a booklet of coupons to various local activities - theater, sports events, etc. - , a book of cartoons by Kal, the Sun's political cartoonist, and an offer of a really cheap rate if I would come back to them. Do the people at the paper really think that this package will bring me back as a subscriber? I am insulted and amused that they think so little of my intelligence. I really should write them a letter and explain in detail why I think they have ruined a good newspaper. I probably won't do that - but it's tempting. Not that it would make any difference in the long run. I 'm sure that newspapers, like any other business, look at the bottom line, which is what their advertisers will pay, based on the number of subscribers. However, I doubt they will attract many new subscribers with their new format and they may lose others like me who want more real news and less fluff in their paper.

Patty and I have started doing something different on our neighborhood walks. We had noticed a lot of trash along the curbs and in the common areas, as well as in people's front lawns. So, we are carrying plastic bags and wearing gardening gloves now and picking up trash. One of us collects recyclables and the other, trash. The bending down is good exercise and we can still keep up a pretty good pace of walking. We do not go down to the creek, however, although there is plenty of trash down there. The creek runs through our development, crossing and recrossing the roads. The banks from the sidewalks to the stream are steep and we aren't going to risk a turned ankle by climbing (sliding?) down and struggling back up, just to get a piece of trash. However, one day, we plan to make a trip specifically to climb (carefully) down those banks and clear the stream. Last night we gathered a full bag (grocery bag) of trash, but only a few bottles and cans. Even if we don't find much, it is something that will make our neighborhoods look better and help the environment - and it's easy for us to do.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Yesterday was one of those busy days when I didn't seem to get much done. Church took up much of the morning, although I had some time earlier at home to catch up on email and blogs. After church, I grabbed a bagel and went to my favorite walking place - Lake Elkhorn. (I had packed walking clothes and shoes.) It was a bit chilly as I ate my lunch, but I warmed up as I walked. Didn't see much wildlife - a couple of turtles and the Great Blue heron. Lots of people walking on Sundays. I almost didn't get a parking space, as the lot is very small. When I got home, I had to make a huge pan of macaroni and cheese for a dinner being served by members of my church for some worthy group. (I can't remember which community group it was.)

It's been years since I made macaroni and cheese. I remember making it for my father back in '99. (He's been gone 9 years now.) Actually what I made for Dad was what my mother always made - spaghetti and cheese. It is a very thick version - lots of cheese but very little liquid. It's not the way I ever made it for my family, but Dad loved it that way. When my kids were small, I always made a version with Velveeta cheese - not very gourmet! My son who was a very picky eater loved it, so the rest of us tolerated it because it was one of the few things he would eat. (It still amazes me that as an adult, he worked as a cook for several years. He's a very good cook, but still doesn't eat his vegetables!) Anyway, to make a roasting pan of macaroni and cheese, I tripled the recipe on the box and cooked about 24 ounces of elbow macaroni. To go with this, I grated a pound of cheddar cheese. Let me tell you, that's a lot of cheese to grate. My hand was very tired when I finished. Of course, I had more macaroni than would fit into the pan and way more sauce than I needed, but that's ok because I made two small casseroles - one for me and one for Patty. (Since we are both single, we sometimes share meals.) I ate mine last night and rediscovered how satisfying a dish that is. I must make it more often - but not enough in quantities to feed 10 people!

By the time I got back from delivering the casserole, it was time to phone Kate. I try to call her every Sunday afternoon (evening for her), but we hadn't talked since I left England. We stay in touch by email and reading each other's blogs, but chatting with her is my treat to myself once a week.

An old (whoops - I mean long-time) friend called me yesterday afternoon. We met in graduate school at Rutgers many years ago. Our group there consisted of three library students and one education student, all female and three undergraduate men. Two of us women married the guys and had a couple of kids with them, but are not married to them now. Anyway, Bonnie, who still lives in New Jersey, is coming down to visit me next week. It's been a couple of years since we saw each other, although we do write every few months, so we stay in touch. (Yes, amazingly, some people still write letters, rather than communicate via the Internet. I have to admit, however, that I type all my personal correspondence. My hand writing has deteriorated badly in the last 20 years - from lack of practice!) It'll be fun to see Bonnie and get caught up on each other's lives. She's bringing her little dog along, which will be a treat for me. I like dogs (used to have two, along with three cats) but don't want any pets these days, so having one visit will be nice.

This morning, I'm supposed to be balancing my checkbook and suchlike, so I'd better quit chattering on and GET TO WORK!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

accomplishments and addictions

Well, I can't compete with my daughter Kate in getting things done. She is amazingly organized. However, I do feel good about a couple of things. My studio is cleared out and I have some ideas of where and how to find a cheap work table. I'm mostly caught up with the trimming and cleanup in the yard, and I have lost (probably temporarily) the two pounds that I had gained since returning from England in early October. The weight loss must be due to all the walking that my friend Patty and I are doing almost every evening. We usually walk for about an hour. Her pedometer tells us how much of our walk was aerobic - usually all of it, as we are fast walkers. Burning off 300-400 calories seems to keep my weight on track. I don't know what will happen this winter when it gets dark early. We can't walk until Patty gets home from work and it will be dark soon after that. We'll just have to use flashlights, I guess and stay on level paths.

Today one of our favorite antique stores was having a "flea market" outside. Basically that meant that a few of the dealers who sell at that store brought out some of their less valuable items and reduced them up to 75 percent off. That's my kind of sale! I got a neat blue oil lantern, a table for plants, a birdhouse, a purple bottle with a cow embossed on it, and some more little
china animals for my wall boxes. Above on the right are the table, lantern and purple bottle. Above on the left and center are some of the birdhouses that I've been collecting for the past year or so. I have them on three sides of my deck - on the railing - and also hanging from the soffit. The squirrels knock some off the deck every so often and I have to search the back yard for them, but mostly they don't break in the fall. (Birdhouses, I mean. Of course, squirrels don't seem to break in falling, either.) Haven't quite decided if I should bring the birdhouses in for the winter or not. There are quite a few of them, but they are small, so could probably fit into a couple of boxes. On the other hand we don't get very harsh winters here, so they would probably be ok left outside. Considering my overstuffed storage room, outside is the likely solution.

As you might guess by now, I am addicted to "stuff". I particularly like outside stuff because it never has to be dusted! Inside, I have so much stuff that I cannot display it all at once. I rotate my decorations according to season. This situation has come about partly because after my husband and I split up, I moved from a large house to my current town house - about half the space. And my husband didn't want anything he had to dust or hang on the wall, so I ended up with far more than my share of 'stuff'. And, of course, I have the pottery I make and cannot seem to get rid of. I only display my masks. (There will be photos of them on flickr, one of these days.) The rest of my clay things are packed into boxes in the basement storage room. I do have some dishes that I use, but most of my creations are decorative, rather than useful. Finally, I hate to admit it, but in the last few years, I have acquired even more 'stuff'. I really need to stop buying or start selling! I chatted with several antique dealers today and they each said that they got into selling because they had accumulated too much stuff for their houses. That may be my future!
Fall has finally arrived here in Maryland. Last night, the temperatures were in the 40s and today was sunny, but cool. Very nice weather, actually. I've almost finished my Halloween decorating. I put fake cobwebs on my little evergreen tree out front, with 'help' from several of the neighborhood kids. Now all I need are some little spiders (plastic, not real ones) to add to the webs. Halloween is big here, with most of us decorating outside. Quite impressive. I'll try to take some photos soon, now that I have figured out how to post photos on the blog.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

over my head in politics (and economics)

I don't know what local papers are like in other parts of the world, but here in the Washington suburbs, the papers are so full of political news that there is hardly room for anything else. I want to be informed, but this is way too much information on a single topic. I should mention that my TV set is only used to play videos or DVDs, so I get almost all my news from the daily paper. (FYI - I am a long-time liberal, but I will try to avoid politics on this blog. This will be like the arrangement I have with my conservative brothers. We want to keep the peace, so we just don't discuss politics.)

Sorry about the digresion - back to the newspapers. Even murders take a back seat to the latest political furor. (Actually, murders are so common in Baltimore and Washington that they hardly ever make the front page. A sad commentary on this part of the country.) The front section of the Washington Post had 20 pages this AM. On these pages were 14 articles relating to the upcoming election. (November's election can't come fast enough for me!) There were also about 9 articles on economics. When you subtract the many advertisements, there is very little room for any other news.

The past couple of weeks, for the first time in my life, I have been reading the business section of the paper. Since I own only a small mutual fund that has never done well, the stock market is not usually of personal interest to me, so I usually skip the business section and discard it along with the sports section. (Now, you know the worst about me - I don't follow sports, I don't watch TV, and I am a liberal!) So, recently I have been reading all about the current economic situation and various people's opinions on why it happened and what will happen next. (Tea leaf readings, anyone?) I have to admit that I don't really understand derivities and hedge funds and suchlike. The last time I studied economics was in college, many years ago. However, it is interesting that a very few people who do understand economics had some years ago predicted problems, especially in the unregulated derivative market. One was a woman, Brooksley Born ( She should have been named Cassandra, as no one listened to her.) Bond was the head of a small regulatory agency - the CFTC (Commodities Futures Trading Commission). From 1996 thru 1999 she tried to get Alan Greenspan (Federal Reserve Chairman), Robert Rubin (Sec. of the Treasury) and Arthur Levitt (Securities and Exchange Chairman) to let her agency regulate derivatiaves. The three men refused, saying that it wasn't part of her job and shouldn't be regulated anyway. Was this because she was a woman? One has to wonder. Now, at least one of those three men is admitting that, yes, she was right and they should have done something. Hindsight is great, isn't it? (I will now admit that I had to get yesterday's paper out of the recycle box and find the article in order to get all the names and titles correct. I had never heard of Born until yesterday). It seems to me that there is plenty of blame to go around on what has happened to the US (and world) economy - politicians, regulators, banks, stock market traders, big companies, home owners, comsumers - we all share the blame. I just wish I thought we would all be sharing the pain equally! Ok, that's the rant for today.
On the home front, I did accomplish some things yesterday. I filled up my new shed with only about 2/3 of the items that were in the old one. I could have used a shed twice the size, if my yard was larger. Then I went inside to the basement and yes! cleared out the room that will become my studio. (I forgot to take a photo of it with all the junk in it, but I will take a picture when it is finished.) The clearing out process wasn't as bad as I had feared. I moved a few items into the larger storage room (discarding two empty computer boxes - why did I keep those?) and rearranged a bit and - viola! - room for a work table and two shelves mostly cleared for storing works in progress. In the process, I found a ton of old, hardened clay leftover from ceramics classes I have taken over many years. Well, it wasn't really a ton, but probably a couple hundred pounds. I have started recycling it by breaking up the hard clay with a hammer and putting it into buckets to soak. Since I have at several different kinds of clay that cannot be mixed together, I will have to keep several buckets going for some time now. In a week or so, I will pour off the excess water, let the very wet clay dry for a few weeks and then wedge it into good, usable clay. (If you enjoyed making mudpies as a child, you would like working with clay). Wedging soft clay is like dipping your hands in mud. Having felt what clay does to my hands, I would never doubt the drying effect of a mud facial!

You might notice that I finally have a photo on my blog. Please DO NOT enlarge this picture. When made larger, it shows all my wrinkles. This photo was taken by Sarah (eldest granddaughter) when I was visiting them a few weeks ago. The Greek fisherman's hat I'm wearing is a favorite with all the kids. I took pictures of each child wearing the hat, even the elusive Sarah who will do just about anything to keep her lovely face away from the camera. Here are those photos, but I cannot seem to get all three on the same line. Oh well. Olivia is to the left. Alex is right here below. Scroll down for Sarah. Sarah is here . She erased one photo of herself that I had just taken, but I managed to save this one.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

home improvements

The last couple of days, a friend who is starting a handyman business did some work for me - both inside and out. He did a great job at a reasonable price. He took apart an old, rusty metal shed, hauled the pieces away and put up my new RubberMaid shed. It looks great! He also did some odd jobs which I couldn't do for myself - like fix the back gate, clean and stain one part of the deck which was just too high for me to work on (I'm a coward when it comes to heights), replace a piece of drainpipe which had several leaks, and install a light in a small room in the basement (intended as a bathroom, but no fixtures). This room is going to become a studio where I can 'play with clay' at home. I never work at home because it is such a mess to clean up the clay that inevitably falls on the floor and, frankly, my dining room table, which is the only place I could work, is never clear of papers!

So now I have a room for my clay adiction. The only problem is -the little room is already pretty full of other stuff, including several buckets of hardened clay. (Bone dry clay can be recycled, but requires some work to make it usable.) There are 5 plastic bins of seed for the birds, a 40 bottle wine rack, shelves that hold laundry supplies, empty flower pots and other odd bits, two large metal coolers, a chest that holds my old record collection, none of which I have played in at least 10 years, and some empty boxes that are nice and sturdy and surely will be useful someday. I'm sure you get the picture. I confess, I am a packrat, a hoarder. I cannot seem to get rid of things that 'might come in handy someday.' Kate, who is ruthless about getting rid of unneeded stuff, has offered to help me clean out the basement the next time she visits. (I'll have to make sure we have many more interesting things to do, so that she never has time to do this!)

Anyway, I really am going to get that little room cleared out and turned into a studio --- one of these days. Some of the items in there can (and willl) be discarded. Even I don't keep all the empty boxes that come my way. Some things perhaps can go in the new shed. However, before that happens, I have to sort through the things that were in the old shed and get rid of some of them. Help! Getting rid of stuff is difficult even after I have decided what to discard, because our trash people will only take certain items, so I'll have to drive the other things to the dump or wait for a 'dumpster day' here in the development. Luckily, just now I seem to have some extra energy (don't know where that came from, but I'll take it, thank you.) so if I get started tomorrow and keep at it through the weekend, perhaps I will be successful at discarding and reorganizing. It's supposed to rain on Saturday, so I won't be tempted to work outside. I'll keep you posted on my progress or lack of it!

I think I'll take a photo of the room as it is now and then when it's finished, and 'one of these days' I'll put the photos up here so you can see my accomplishments.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

busy weekend

I think when I was gainfully employed, all my weekends were frantically busy. However, since I retired, weekends tend to be times for relaxing because most of my activities are on weekdays. Not true this weekend! Yesterday Patty, her mother and I drove up to the MD/PA border to pick apples at Shaw's Orchards. It was a lovely drive, through rolling hills and farmland, with more and more fall color in the trees as we drove north. At the orchard, we picked Cameos and Nittanys - both good eating apples. Picking was sooo easy - we filled our baskets very quickly. The trees were small, so we could reach nearly all the branches.

Years ago, my DH and I took the kids (Kate and Steve) apple picking in Virginia. Those orchards had full sized apple trees, the kind where one needs a ladder (or an adventuresome child) in order to reach the best apples. Since we had two adventuresome children, we always got the apples from the top and the kids had fun. All except one trip where the orchards were full of poison ivy. It was even climbing up the trees. Steve was not allergic to it, but Kate was very sensitive and got a nasty rash. My DH and I were fine - I think perhaps we were more careful about where we stepped, and of course, we weren't climbing the trees.

Before we left Shaw's, we took a quick browse through their shop, where we bought "goose gourds". They are large green gourds that have a round body and a long neck which curves over. They really do look like geese - if you can imagine green geese! After we packed up our apples, we drove a bit further into Pennsylvania to the town of Columbia (near York) where there are some really good antique stores. ('really good' for us is a store which has a large selection of inexpensive items). We also ate lunch there - at an old-fashioned drug store, which has a restaurant in it. This store (Hinkles) is amazing. They have many gift items and seasonal decorative stuff. A small room in one corner had nothing but Halloween decorations! The food is great too. I had a made-from-scratch chocolate milkshake with my sandwich. Mmmmmn!

After lunch, we hit three more antique stores and then drove back toward York to go to a store called the Christmas Tree Shop. None of us were ready to consider buying Christmas items in October, despite all the local stores having them on display already. However, this shop has all kinds of seasonal items as well as home decorator things, linens, canned and packaged food products and more. It was an experience just to wander around the aisles and see what was for sale. By this time it was 6 PM, so we ate dinner and headed for home. It was such a fun day, but by the time we got home, we were VERY TIRED! My bank account was somewhat lighter too.

Today I had to be at church by 8:30, because the church library was having a used book sale. We ask for donations from church members and then sell these books in order to have money for new books. Tables for the books are set up in the lobby between the two sanctuaries (this is an interfaith center and we (Methodist-Presbyterians) share the space with two Catholic congregations). By the time people were leaving from the first mass, we had all the books displayed and ready for browsing and (we hoped) buying. We usually make several hundred dollars on our book sale, so it's worth doing, despite all the work of sorting the books the week before, putting them out on the tables, and boxing them up after the sale. Unsold books are donated to various local thrift stores. I got home about 3:30 today - pretty darn tired.

However, no rest for the wicked. Tonight, I'm going to a dinner theater with some friends. We have season tickets and attend four or five shows a year. The show tonight is "The Producers." I don't know the music or the plot, but probably I will recognize some of the songs. I don't keep up with teenage popular music, but I am pretty well acquainted with show tunes. I know it'll be fun, but right now I'm so tired that I wish I could just stay home tonight. Hope I can stay awake during the show!!

Friday, October 10, 2008

work and play

Thursdays are my days to work in the gift shop of our local hospital. The work is easy and mostly enjoyable, although sometimes the cash register and I don't get along. Luckily, since we are all volunteers, we are not held to the standards of paid clerks in stores. So, if I put in the wrong amount and can't get it corrected, or put a candy purchase under the code for books, no one scolds me or threatens to reduce my pay. (Zero minus anything is still zero!) I enjoy chatting with our customers and also with the two other women who work on Thursdays. Dawn and I worked together at the thrift shop which the hospital auxiliary ran. When it closed a couple of years ago we moved over to the gift shop. Considering how little physical work is involved at the gift shop, it's amazing how tired I am at the end of a 6 and a half hour day. I've gotten really spoiled by retirement. Sure glad I am not working full time these days. Last night, I got home and went for a short walk with Patty. Thursday nights are choir nights, so I then grabbed a bite to eat and headed over to church. Choir is always a pleasure for me, as I love singing and we have a good group of musicians. When I got home, after choir, I was too tired to write anything on this blog.

Today was filled with running errands and having lunch with a group of long-time friends. (You will please note that I don't say with "old friends". We prefer to think of ourselves as mature, not old!) This group has been meeting for lunch for years - it fluctuates in size as we lose members and once in a while gain one. At one time we all belonged to the same church, although we have since left it. Most of us are retired now, only two members are still full-time workers. Like many retired folks, we find we are as busy in retirement as when we were employed. My friends and I take college courses, work part-time as consultants, start new businesses, and volunteer in various areas. We travel, act and sing in community theater, take art classes, garden, visit with our grandchildren and generally keep very busy.

The drive from my house to where we are currently meeting for lunch is a very enjoyable one. Much of the route is alongside a wildlife preserve, so there are trees and fields on either side of the road. Our trees are beginning to turn now. The first to color up are the reds - dogwood, Bradford pear, sumac, and Virginia creeper (five-leaf ivy). Last year we had wonderful fall color. Too soon to know what this year's will be like, but the reds look really good so far.

Our neighborhood is looking colorful as well. My friend Patty has put out her Halloween decorations now, as have a few others in our development. She has gravestones, ghosts, pumpkins, and a sign saying that "the witch is in". I have only a few items - pumpkins and a scarecrow - out so far. I may add a bit more next week. Last year I dressed the scarecrow up as a witch for the occasion. The last few years, it's been so warm on Halloween that several of us have sat outside together on the front lawns after dark, greeting the trick and treaters and combining our treats into one stop. We can sit and admire costumes while we have some snacks and liquid treats ourselves. I find that much more enjoyable than sitting alone in my house, popping up every few minutes to answer the door. Hopefully, this year will be equally mild on Oct 31 and we can be outside again.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

a trimming frenzy

Yesterday afternoon I went out to bag up the trimmings I had done on the bushes in the back yard. I bagged up what had been trimmed and then in a burst of misplaced enthusiasm, I decided to do some radical trimming of the remaining forsythia bushes. If you aren't familiar with forsythia, you won't know that it reproduces itself vigorously. It sends up shoots from its roots and also makes roots wherever hanging branches touch the ground. In one corner, I have a huge bush, which has spread in three directions (no four actually, as it somehow manages to go under the fence). So I pulled up small offshoots and cut the larger bushes down to the ground. I have clay soil, with lots of rocks, so digging anything up is practically impossible. I will have to use Roundup if I want to actually kill the bushes, and I hate to use that kind of stuff. I may have to settle for just cutting them back to the ground each year. Anyway, the result of an hour's cutting is a pile of branches, twice as big as what I started out with! It's likely to take twice as long to bag as it did to trim. Guess my work is cut out for me today. I will be at my church library this morning and at the dentist this afternoon, but I hope to be the trimmings bagged up later this afternoon. What fun - NOT!

It was a lovely day for walking yesterday and I did the circuit around Lake Elkhorn in Columbia. I've not measured it, but I estimate it as just under 2 miles. I saw two herons - a white one and a Great Blue. Both were fishing successfully, as I watched. When a heron sees a fish, the bird very slowly bends down toward the water and then SNAP, it grabs the fish and swallows it. I also saw many small turtles sunning themselves on logs and a couple of larger ones swimming just below the surface. Half the fun of walking around the lake is to spot wild creatures. Most of the other walkers I see aren't looking at the wildlife. It's their loss. However, I really must get some lightweight binoculars to take on my walks. Creature watching is much better with binoculars. Buying a good pair is another one of those things I plan to do one of these days.

Patty and I walked again last night - about 3 miles, I think. We are getting to know all the neighborhoods just beyond out own. As we walk, we critique the gardens and wonder what the inside of the houses look like. Both Patty and I are avid gardeners. Patty likes neat gardens with mulch showing between the plants. She removes plants that are done blooming or aren't doing well. She has enriched the soil a lot and her plants grow much bigger than expected, which is great. I fertilize less, crowd many plants into a small space and let them take over the flower bed and spread out over the sidewalk and into the lawn. My flower beds are a mass of mixed plants, a hodge podge of color and structure. We have friendly competition between our front yards, both in what we are growing and in the seasonal decorations we put out. Patty does far more decorating than I do. She already has an interesting variety of pumpkins on her steps - a pale green one and a really ugly striped one, as well as the usual orange ones. One of these days, I will take some photos. I still have photos from my England trip in my camera, and I don't know when I'll get them into my computer and then onto Flickr or into this blog. One of these days......

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

a good walking day

I did a lot of walking while I was in England visiting Kate and family, and it was mostly just part of Kate's daily routine. I felt really good, both physically and mentally - after all, exercise is good for us. So now I'm home, where a car is essential for getting to most places and walking has to be planned and scheduled. But, I'm off to a good start. Yesterday I walked about 5 miles total in two different walks. I went early to the ceramics class that I teach and walked a nature trail at the rec center. It's a lovely trail through the woods along a stream. A little less than a mile. Then last night, Patty (my neighbor and friend) and I took a long walk through a new housing development up the road from our neighborhood. Patty has just acquired a pedometer, and she was trying to walk at least 10,000 steps a day. She had about 5000 on there when we started out and we finished up with over 12,000. I figure that our walk was 3 1/2 to 4 miles, based on her pedometer and knowing how long it takes me to walk a mile. (We are fast walkers.) Both of us had aching knees and feet by the time we got home, but we felt very virtuous! We are scheduled to walk again tonight, but probably won't go quite that far. However, I plan to walk after lunch today as well. I will be in Columbia (a nearby city) where I take a ceramic class, and after class, will eat a picnic lunch and then walk around one of the lakes. Columbia has many walking and biking trails. People are out on them all during the day, but especially at noon, so I feel comfortable walking alone. And sometimes I see interesting birds and reptiles around the lake.

One of these days I'll get a pedometer and check out my own mileage. Yeah, right! Have you ever noticed how seldom 'one of these days' arrives? Still, I might actually follow through on this idea.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Autumn in New York (and Maryland)

Yesterday was one of those beautiful fall days. Sunshine all day and blue skies and yet the temperature wasn't too hot. Just a glorious day! It reminded me of how much I enjoy this time of year. I love fall because most of the gardening work is done (no trees on my property, so few leaves to rake). And because it is finally cool enough to enjoy being out in the sunshine. (Here in Maryland, from May through August it's mostly way too hot to enjoy being outside). It seems as if the flowers know that their year is ending, so they have this surge of bloom before the frost comes. If we have some rain, as we have this fall, everything is green and healthy, even the grass, which doesn't do well in our summer heat. I remember loving autumn when I was a child, growing up in western New York. The sugar maples turn bright red and put on a magnificant show up there. (Here in Maryland, our trees mostly turn gold or mahagony - nice, but can't compete with New York.) The house where I grew up had two rows of maple trees in the front yard. Strangely, I don't remember the color, but rather that when the leaves fell my parents raked them into huge piles tht were wonderful for jumping into. I made houses and forts and mazes of them, before Dad raked them across the sidewalk into the street. Then some evening, he would set them ablaze. What a grand sight that was! Often several neighbors burned their leaves at the same time, so we had bonfires up and down the street. As the flames died down, I was allowed to poke a long stick into the ashes and see what was still red hot. Sometimes, as a special treat, I toasted marshmallows over the embers. The smell of burning leaves is still one of my most pleasant memories of fall, although I don't really care for toasted marshmallows any more. Of course now we are not allowed to burn anything outside and we compost our leaves or let the community gather them up. This is no doubt better for the ecology, but I have to admit that I miss the smell of burning leaves.

Because yesterday was too nice a day to work inside, I started clearing out and cleaning up the jungle in my backyard. I cut back the forsythia (a lot, but not enough) and tied the branches of the hydrangea and the beauty bush to the fence, so that one can actually walk from the gate to the deck steps and on to the back door. (The previous owner planted a hydrangea at the bottom of the steps in a border bed that is only about one foot wide. What was she thinking? Every summer it strives to climb the steps, usually succeeding, and every year I cut it back. I don't know who is winning this battle - perhaps the bush and I are tied). I also pulled up some wildflowers (weeds?) that I mistakenly planted out back a couple of years ago. Warning: don't transplant wild goldenrod into your flower beds. It is very aggressive and will multiply and take over all available space. I appear to have pulled it all out, but no doubt some will have survived and will come up again in the spring. There is more work to be done in the back. I haven't yet bagged up all the bits I cut and pulled up and there is more trimming to do, but it's a start.

I read somewhere that 'weeds are only plants growing where they don't belong'. Don't fall for that line, no doubt written by a weed lover. Weeds are far hardier than domestic flowers - think of wolves vs. dogs. Weeds root anywhere, including in the mulch over the weed barrier on the path. They are very hard to pull up. If something comes up easily, you probably pulled up a nice plant, not a weed! And weeds multiply rapidly and spread widely. Sometimes they magically transport themselves from one spot to another. A few years ago I found a purple-leafed plant growing in my back yard. It was very attractive and resembled a coleus, but not one that I had planted. It was there for a couple of seasons, then disappeared, only to appear in the front yard this summer. It has taken over a section of the front bed and spread into the lawn. I rather like it, although I haven't been able to identify it, so I'll leave it alone and see what happens next year.

Thank you, Pat and Mumzy for your welcoming comments. I'm glad to know that there are other bloggers out there from my generation. So many of my friends are not really comfortable with the world of the Internet and Blogging and suchlike. (I'm not all that comfortable myself, but I'm trying.) My daughter's friends are all online, but many of mine don't use computers at all. I'm very addicted to email because my kids live far away (England and Arizona), but I have trouble remembering passwords and user names. I write them down and then can't rememer where I put them! I think my personal memory needs to be rebooted or maybe upgraded, but at least, I don't need a password in order to access it!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

what chirps like a cricket?

Yesterday, I thought I would go crazy. I kept hearing a chirping noise in my house. I was in the basement and immediately thought of crickets, which tend to come inside in the fall. We once had a cricket that chirped almost all winter before we found it. I even checked the chirp smoke detector, but all of them are run off the house electricity, so it couldn't chirp be that. Didn't find any crickets and anyway the chirp noise seemed to be from upstairs. Ok, I'm in the living room and chirp I still hear it. I get a stool, climb up and take the cover off the smoke detector. Don't see any batteries, just chirp wires. Maybe there is something wrong with the thermostat which is chirp on the wall in the same part of the living room. It seems ok, and actually the heat/cooling system isn't running now as chirp the temperatures are lovely outside so I don't need either heat or A/C. I finally decide it must be the smoke detector chirp. The sound is driving me crazy. I turn up the radio and hear lovely classical music interspersed with chirp. HELP! I can't escape. In desperation, I took some styrofoam and cut it to make a box enclosing the chirp smoke detector. Praise God for duct tape! It's better now. I hear chirp a much softer sound, but it's still there. I wonder if I'll have to call an electrician and pay $60 an hour to get this problem chirp fixed. Then I have a thought - I'll ask a neighbor. One good thing about living in a townhouse is that we all tend to have the same problems chirp at about the same time. (Everybody's heat pumps had to be replaced a year or two ago; everybody had to get rotted wood replaced in the front.) chirp I go next door and in their ceiling is a smoke detector hanging from its wiring. Somehow I have no trouble guessing why. But it is NOT chirping. Sure enough, they have had the same problem and yes there is a battery (for backup purposes) in the smoke detector. My very helpful, very tall neighbor comes over to my house, reaches up and removes the cover to the chirp smoke detector. He then disconnects it and pulls out a 9 volt battery. The smoke detector is in his hand and it says chirp! I put the darn thing in the basement where I cannot hear it chirp and go to buy a new battery. Put it in and all is quiet. Thank goodness.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

home at last

My luggage finally arrived - one at midnight on Thursday and the other last night at 11. Both bags had take a small side trip to Newark, NJ!! This seems very odd, as they were clearly marked for Baltimore. Frankly, if I were choosing a place to visit, it would not be Newark - been there and wasn't impressed. (Hope I haven't insulted anyone reading this.) Anyway, all the stuff in the suitcases arrived in good shape and is now put away. The clothes are being washed this morning.

I was delighted to discover when I got home that I had not gained any weight on this visit. Despite having a lovely glass of wine nearly every night and eating far more than I usually do (Kate is a much more interesting cook than I am) I actually may have lost a bit. It's all that walking I do while in England. We walked the kids to and from school every weekday - about 3 miles per day. And we often walked to nearby High Streets to do a bit of shopping and have a coffee. I particularly like the many charity shops (thrift stores). I love poking around in thrift stores and what people discard in England is rather different than what we see here in the US.

Every small suburb has a High Street with shops where one can get all the basic needs. Of course, in the London suburbs, there are also huge supermarkets, bigger than anything I have seen in the US, and also some enclosed malls. One supermarket is within walking distance (about a mile) from Kate's home. She sometimes rides her bike to shop there, but for major shopping, a car is useful. She and Geoff have just one car, which is not used on a daily basis. England has great public transportation systems. Trains, tubes (subway) and buses connect and take one just about anywhere. Unfortunately, a person with disabilities, who could not manage stairs or do much walking, would find it difficult to use public transportation. Buses are handicap accessible, but not trains or the tube.

All my flowers and bushes here are healthy and thriving. Two of my neighbors water my plants when I'm gone. They did a great job. Fall is a good time for plants here. It's cool, but warm enough for growing. My many potted plants on the deck are thriving. The red canna lily started blooming while I was gone - FINALLY!. That stupid plant did nothing all summer except grow tall and put out leaves. It was supposed to be a dwarf variety. Ha! At least I get to enjoy it now that I'm back. The orange marigolds have taken over a corner of the front garden and are sprawling onto the sidewalk. Some of the mums, the ones that didn't get trimmed back in July, are blooming now. In the back yard, which is entirely flowers, bushes and (horrors!) weeds, the plants have run wild. I cannot reach the bottom of the stairs down from the deck without a battle with the hydrangea growing at the bottom. The forsythia, which I cut back to the ground two years ago, has come back as big as ever and is now about 8 feet tall again and occupying far more than its share of space. I must get out there soon and cut things back - waaay back. Maybe today or tomorrow.

One of these days, I will take some photos of the yard and figure out how to put them up on this blog. Not today, however.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

how does one begin?

As a person from a pre-computer generation, I admit to having a love/hate relationship with my computer and all the wonderful and frustrating things it does. I love reading blogs from my family or friends (mostly younger friends), but I'm not at all sure about writing a blog myself. My life is rather ordinary and mundane. I'm not sure why anyone else would be interested, but I will try posting something every once in a while. I've always been a prolific writer of letters and, recently, email, so it isn't that I can't babble on and on. It's rather that what I have to say is unlikely to be anything worth reading.

My daughter Kate, has just set this blog up for me, as well as an account on Flickr where I can store my photos. So far, I've already exceeded the monthly limit on posting photos in a free account there. I've just been visiting Kate in London and took many photos, far more than the monthly allowance at Flickr. However, that was in September and it is now October, so soon I will try to add (upload? download?, whatever) the remaining photos that are still in my camera. This abundance of photos is what happens when one acquires a digitel camera. I do try to weed out the really bad pictures, but I still have far more than if I would have if I had to pay to have them developed and printed. Anyway, the photos on Flickr are all from my recent trip. I would give you the url, but I'm not real sure what it is! Told you I'm a novice at this. I'll try to figure that out and get it up here.

The visit to Kate and her family was delightful. I have three wonderful grandchildren there, as well as my daughter and the world's best son-in-law. (Geoff - if you are reading this, don't get a swelled head!) Coming home to Maryland, I arrived safely, but my luggage did not. At this point it is somewhere else. I am hoping that it is currently on a plane arriving soon in Baltimore, but for all I know, it may be taking a trip of its own from London to Timbuktu! I've been traveling between Baltimore and London for 15 years now and this is the first problem I've had with luggage, so I guess it was just my turn for frustration. I sure hope they find my suitcases and deliver them soon. I don't miss the dirty laundry, but there are a number of little items I bought and two quilts that Kate made in those cases. Sure don't want to lose those.

I'm still rather jet-lagged, so will end this. When my luggage reaches me, I'll write again.