Wednesday, October 29, 2008
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
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
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
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
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
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, http://katelnorth.blogspot.com/ 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
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
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
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
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
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
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
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
Saturday, October 4, 2008
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
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. http://www.flickr.com/photos/kathydillard
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.