Monday, September 29, 2008

The Good Life

Yesterday I went to a wine festival. I haven't attended one of these in a decade and discovered in my old age that my palate can get quite tired of the swishing and not swallowing as much as it got tired of the actual drinking. There is only so much wine an old palate can survey before it all starts tasting the same. I decided I was going to just compare the cabernet sauvignons, pinot grigios and maybe a chardonnay or two...but I also came across a new wine called a traminette. Some of you may be familiar with this white wine, which used to be NY65.533.13 and has only recently been given the name Traminette. It was developed at Cornell---those aggies have a grape breeding program. If you go to the link you can see that the wine grows best in a climate such as the mid-Atlantic and thus the one I tasted was both fruity/spicy and also smooth without being sweet. So with a 15% discount I had to pick up 6 bottles of this and then 6 of another wine they had, the Viognier. This is an old grape but also one with which I am not familiar.. Its buttery flavor on the tongue was what won me over.

I now have a mixed case of white wines to get me through the crisp fall days. I also bought a small basket of fuji apples that are so crunchy sweet we may eat them all before I get around to making another pie. I sliced (too lazy to peel) them and fried them in butter, brown sugar, threw in some cinnamon, freshly ground nutmeg, black walnuts and some dried sweet cranberries...a dessert that was so quick and easy last night and put the perfect ending on our dinner of fresh corn on the cob, tomato salad and crab from the dock. I have died and gone to heaven.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Where Have All the Leaders Gone?

A month ago I heard Jim Webb, best selling author, on National Public Radio talk about America's current situation. I liked so much what he said and even more so the tenor of his speech that I immediately ordered his book "A Time to Fight, Reclaiming a Just and Fair America." I am not as smart as I should be and I really didn't know anything about Webb prior to this radio interview and prior to reading this book. He is a bestselling author, a former much-decorated marine, an award winning journalist, a highly placed member of the Reagen administration and now a Senator with a son who fought as a marine in Iraq.

I have just finished this book and was relieved to find that intelligence and common sense do exist in at least one member of the Senate these days. This is not a fun read nor a beach read, but something that helped me put together the pieces of the puzzle that form the picture of America today. This book reassured me that leadership of the right kind can set this country back on track. Rome is burning, but its citizens can put out the fire with this election.

"In short, our problems are not systemic, as in those of other countries where despair, tyranny, and revolution became the order of the day. ..Our challenges are not in repairing our system of government but in improving the way we have been selecting our leaders. .. Those who do not want significant reform in America enjoy the emotional arguments that occupy hours of political commentary while keeping our citizens distracted from the issues that truly threaten our future. Should we imprison people who burn our flag? Should gays be permitted to marry? Can you love the troops and still hate the war? Should Britney spears be allowed to keep her kids? Did Charlie Wilson use cocaine?...

"We need to get past these artificialities and focus on the long-term good of the country. And today, the inalienable bottom line of solving America's may problems is to simply find good leaders and hold them accountable."

I saw the most recent debate and I am voting for the candidate who was not condescending, could look his opponent in the eye, dismissed simple solutions, and kept all options open, including diplomacy, in solving the worlds most dangerous problems. America is not about looking tough but about being tough.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Life in Interesting Times

After much anxiety these past days, I am pretty much against the bailout unless it goes directly to citizens who are losing their houses or who are losing jobs based on the decisions of the greedy barons. Those who made 6+ figure salaries and bonuses and actually had authority to make these greedy decisions should be sent home to lick their wounds and use this as a learning experience. There is no doubt in my mind that many of them have sheltered most of their wealth prior to this debacle anyway. I do not trust those on Paulson's team who decide who gets this big bag of money. I do not like the fact that they are giving the greedy and stupid a pass while those banks and investment firms that were careful and honest will not be rewarded for their contributions to keeping our economy stable. Maybe the money should go to those smaller banks and investment firms who are not in the red and let them decided which 'toxic' assets they wish to purchase at a discount. Let the Feds work on regulation---again!!

Having written the hard line above, I must admit that I have the luxury of not having to live off of my small stock portfolio which has already lost 30%. I have a small retirement salary that is insured by the feds as does my husband, our health insurance is insured and transferable and our daily needs have been reduced greatly in retirement. Our home is paid for. Our biggest expense is property taxes, but the value of my home has fallen 13%---so maybe in a year or two I will be rewarded by that.

Yes, I accept that inflation will rise rapidly (which it may do anyway) and that affects those who are not as lucky as I am. Perhaps we can use this money to stimulate that side of the economy, subsidizing fixed needs--let socialism rear is ugly head. I also accept that heating oil may triple in costs as will food.
I also realize that my portfolio may disappear. Those who, with pain and sacrifice, lived through the Great Depression came through and were wiser and stronger. Maybe this is the dose of medicine America needs when we complain about how expensive it is to heat our swimming pools and eat in 4 star restaurants and plan those huge weddings and put gas in our luxury transportation vehicles. We already use most of the worlds resources per capita and now is time to pay the piper for that lifestyle.

Monday, September 22, 2008


A long while back I posted a story about the flooding of my house during a tropical storm in this blog entry. This story took place just 10 miles north of Galveston. During the time of this event I was working in Galveston part time. Ike has brought all those nasty memories back again.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Where I Fit In.

My husband was able to take some time off during his business trip to visit South Point on the Big Island of Hawaii. This point is the southernmost point of the United States and from what I remember during the two times I have visited there, it is a windy and vast and humbling place. If you walk toward the water you will see the green sand beaches where polished olivine mineral colors the sand with lime green. I love places like these. I love the desolate parts of the desert in the mid-west where the sound of human civilization is not heard. You are all alone and you can almost feel as if you are the only person on the planet. South Point also gives this isolated and breathtaking feeling. My inner spirit does not shrink with loneliness or fear or loss in places like these. I do not feel alone, but instead, feel as if I am part of something so big and so wonderful that I also have a place on the vast green beach just like the grains of sand. These isolated places are restorative for me. They give me some perspective on my daily problems and concerns.

While visting South Point, my husband encountered a Canadian couple on their honey-moon trying to take their own picture. He volunteered assistance and that lead to a conversation about the U.S. election. The Canadians asked my husband where he stood in this time in our history. My husband is an ardent supporter of Barrack Obama as he feels his ideas reflect global views and reasonable approaches. He explained that having a President of color would also improve the skewed view that the world currently has of us. It would show that we have moved beyond prejudice and finally grown up as a country. As they talked, the Canadians could not believe that there was still prejudice in the United States to the extent it would affect an election.

Well, it appears from a recent poll that the evidence (and I caution my readers that I do not place much weight in political polls nor do I think the connection of the dots in this particular poll is necessarily supported) does not bode well for our evolution as a country. If you are still afraid of something different, big changes or concerned with something you do not understand about human behavior that bothers you, I strongly recommend you take a course in Critical Thinking.

Monday, September 15, 2008


For those of you who have passports, can you remember the first time you got yours? I can. I was heading out to live in Palau, Micronesia, and while a passport was not absolutely necessary since it was a U.S. Territory at the time, it was a good idea. After all, we were going to be pretty close to Asia and I might get a chance to visit those many exotic and intriguing countries...and I eventually did! I was in my early 20's and had never traveled outside the U.S.A. This passport was like a luxurious cruise ticket to me. I felt very sophisticated and as if the next best part of my life was just around the corner.

As a teenager I wanted so much to get out of that tiny farm town and see the world. I had no money and was barely able to save and borrow for college. But the best part of the world was just beyond my reach. I was so sheltered at that time, that a trip into Denver got me excited! I even considered joining the Peace Corps to insure travel, and while I got the big intimidating envelope they send out, after reading each page, I felt I could not afford the two years as a volunteer. I had to get on with college and get a job.

Kenju had asked in the prior post if I had passed up a trip to Hawaii just so I could cook. I am a little embarrassed to admit that, in part, I did. I am somewhat jaded by my life experiences. While I love each and every unique island in Hawaii, I have been to Hawaii maybe a dozen times. I actually lived on Oahu for over a year when I went to graduate school there. I spent my honey-moon on the big island---which is very interesting life story in itself that I have to blog some day. I have passed through the tropical state and spent weekends recuperating on return trips from living or visiting various parts of Asia.

So, yes, Kenju, I did pass up the trip to Hawaii. I do know that I am not so jaded that had the month been January or February, I probably would have thrown a swimsuit into a bag and jumped at the opportunity. But for now, retirement and free scheduling around my house are still very fulfilling. After all, yesterday I cleaned out the refrigerator for the first time in two years! And today I have on my schedule to paint those two large iron suns that hang above the garage doors so that they match the window frame colors more closely. (Smile.)

Sometimes, being jaded just means you have lived a pretty rich and fulfilling life.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Fall is the busy season

The fact that my husband is again off to Hawaii means once again I can enjoy a free schedule and alone time. Thus I finished the apples and peaches and have a freezer full of pie fillings. Next my energies were focused on filling ice cube trays with parmesan pesto to use up a lot of the basil. Then I filled the cookie sheets with leaves of Thai basil, licorice basil, and lemon basil and then put those trays into the freezer for about 20 minutes. Then working like Speedy Gonzales I placed the flat leaves into zip lock freezer bags for this winter's meals.

Finally, I have begun to fall behind on using the fresh tomatoes---and believe me, this year we have a very small harvest because my husband put in a fast garden. I dread the tons of tomatoes we will harvest next year when he really gets his game on. I had to preserve the plum tomatoes and so I made my version of tomato sauce---which means I am too lazy to remove the seeds---and I got about two quarts of garlic, basil tomato sauce which I froze. I might have been able to make more if I had been less sloppy!

One of the nicest things about retirement is that one can enjoy life's harvest at leisure. I do not have to cram all this cooking into a weekend along with doing the laundry and driving kids places and paying bills! I can actually slow down and smell the sauce and take my time in labeling the zip locks and plastic containers so that I know what in the world these gray freezer bags contain when snow is on the ground and I need something for dinner. I can actually take time to rearrange the freezer under the refrigerator and the chest freezer in the garage so that the older things are near the top. (We finally finished the last of the frozen crab from last year this summer!)

Yes, one of the things about getting old is that it tends to be all about food!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Do Some Research!

I am trying to stay out of blogging about this election because I am so passionately opinionated and concerned...but Bill has a good blog referral here for everyone who is confused and/or thinks everyone is a crook and wonders why they should vote!!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Bloody Ground

This weekend we stopped by the Gettysburg National Military Park which has a brand new museum and visitor center, much of it is funded by Northrup Grumman. For some historians the Battle of Gettysburg was the turning point in America's Civil War. The fact that hundreds of books, new ones each year, are written about America's Civil War are testament to this wound that still scars our history.

The photo above seems so sterile compared to the lives lost and blood soaked ground that it represents.

"In the aftermath of the battle, every farm field was a graveyard and every church, public building and even private homes were hospitals."

While reading some information about this war I came across this quote:

"The most astute theologian of the crisis, a layperson named Abraham Lincoln, framed the issue in simple terms: "Both sides read the same Bible and pray to the same God." And since they prayed for different outcomes, "the prayers of both could not be answered." In an environment like ours in which the role of religion in public life is energetically debated and values such as freedom are said not to be "America's gift to the world" but instead "'God's gift to humanity," the Civil War provides a cautionary tale about the limits of religious belief in guiding a democracy."

Sound familiar? I guess what amazes me is how easily some folks take the high ground without a second thought. They clearly have a clearer channel to the pure truth than I do.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Fall Baking

Hanna must have dumped a lot of rain and not much wind. We don't have a rain gauge, but this storm left far less damage and mess than a recent summer storm that passed over our heads in July and brought a nearby tornado. Even the lawn is not covered with much debris. Ike does not appear to be planning to pee over our heads, so we may be spared this summer once again.

I brought back small baskets of apples and peaches from the farms in southern Pennsylvania and will be making pie filling all day today for enjoyment this winter. If I smell like nutmeg and/or cinnamon and the door handles to the garage (where the freezer now sits) are sticky you know I am in the midst of pie making.

Of course, this also means I have to spend more time on the elipitical in the future!!

P.S. Yes, the photo below is of one of my three humming birds that seem to spend most of their time fighting over the one lantana pot I have on the deck!

Friday, September 05, 2008

A Girl Scout is Prepared

They are talking about winds of 25-35 and gusts up to 50 MPH. Moved all the outside furniture and took the boat out of the water. Had to take down the hummingbird feeder, sorry. We have to be somewhere else over the weekend, so I hope the house is standing OK and dry when we get back.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


There is clearly not enough joy shown by me in my life and the older I get the less it rears its orange head.

There are common places to find joy...other's joy...dogs, grandchildren, newlyweds, rock stars. Once self-consciousness and self-awareness begin to grow as we become teenagers and young adults, it seems that the joy level in many people gets buried under what looks right and what feels normal and what we know is acceptable. Or it manifests itself as dorkiness.

Sure, there are lots of cool souls that keep their joy levels erupting at regular intervals and feeding energy into the atmosphere for the rest of us. I remember years ago going to a country western bar at Disney World, and as the band started playing, this 70-something lady in a country western skirt and shirt began clapping her hands high over her head as she stood in front of the band and let the music fill her soul. She was singing out and having the best time of her life and would have been acting this way even if no one else was in the room. I am guessing that she would not need a country western band to let her joy show. She is the kind of person that probably shows joy in a perfect morning breeze! You know, the person who throws their head back and grins at the sky as they walk.

Several of "my" bloggers are the joy-filled type. I could get a whole new perspective if I hung out with them. They savor the minutes and give thanks through passionate release of joy each day.

I will give you a full-faced smile, but that is the extent of my dorkiness release. I am married to someone who has no problem dancing in the streets at a moments notice. He can get excited like a puppy dog at bait fish jumping or a lovely sunset. He is that balding wild guy at the wedding that has a ton of fun without a sip of alcohol. And,yes, the joyful energy is magnetic.

Hey, I can show happiness...but joy(?), I have always been too auto-pilot self-conscious. I guess I have to work on that before turn into an old fart.