Sunday, August 30, 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009

Two-Days in the Boonies

The heat and humidity along the Bay had worn us thin. It seemed that just walking out to the shed would result in a necessary change of clothes when one returned. We decided to celebrate our 39th anniversary in the mountains instead since the days that followed were going to be busy with relatives and houseguests. We were able to book a room at the lodge for $69. Do we know how to celebrate or what? The problem was that the above view was the weather that greeted us when we drove to the mountain ridge for our first afternoon hike (we really sort of saunter). The clouds in the distance grumbled and growled finally bringing a small downpour our way as we hurried back to the car where we sat for a long while watching raindrops pelt the dusty windshield. (The danger on these high meadows is the ligntning...not so much the rain.)

We decided to drive down the mountain and found a place below the clouds that was just misting moisture and not threatening a full-fledged shower, and found this old road that was a perfect hiking trail. No slipping or sliding along muddy rocky trails. (This was the area where I photographed the red salamander which I will post about later on my other blog.)

We also traveled another nice trail that followed the Blackwater River just outside of Davis, West Virginia. They have a spillway dam and camping areas and several new trails. The goldenrod was in full bloom reminding us that all of those great autumn colors were soon to be revealed as fall was hovering nearby.

Some trails are marked and others just become intriguing green paths that make you wish you had all the time in the world to wander them and see what new vistas will reward you.

This trail might have been an ATV trail until the ATV's were banned. (Thank God or the powers that be, says Tabor under her breath.) The recent rains made it a challenge to follow. When deciding where to place ones' foot there was either sloppy wet mud or boggy Muskeg on either side. I knew that my new waterproof hiking boots were worth the money when my feet stayed dry and hubby ended up with very wet socks.

The trail formed a loop just as we came to a beaver pond in the sunken marsh at the foot of a large meadow we had been edging. Most of one side of the marsh was wreathed in brown cattails as warnings about the wetness of the soil. We saw two brown hawks in the distance and even though we were very careful and quiet we scared a few pin-tail ducks at the far edge of the pond. We wandered down to the Muskeg edge and saw the remains of a very small deer that had perhaps been a wolf's or fox's dinner. I can visualize the predator enjoying a nice dinner as he looked over the quiet pond.

We moved on up to the side of the hill and set out our lunch with the million dollar view of the pond in the distance on one side and the meadow on the other. We shared cheese, salami and crackers. Cut into juicy fresh Asian pears and peeled some Clementine oranges and then topped the meal off with cookies and dried fruit and nuts. Best restaurant we have eaten in all year! Although there were deer flies about, none bothered us while we recuperated our energy on the fern bed in the shade of the trees.

We encountered even more new trails for another visit on our drive out. They seem to be reaching for creative trail names! There are hundreds of hiking trails in the area. I think we will never be able to trek them all.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Long Hot Summer Stilllife

I am guessing the summer has been too long and too hot when the vegetables lean back on the counter and start smirking at on photo to see what I mean. Sigh. Smart aleck cucumbers. I have my grandson visiting all week, so may be to busy to blog much.

For those charming readers who asked...

Yes, I finished going through the trunk but am still reading my college letters home. That is taking more time. I did sort them (anal retentive person that I am) into chronological order so that my parents responses are correctly interspersed with my letters. My mother is very much a "Gracie Allen" when she writes. I am sure that most people other than my generation have no idea what I am talking about, but you can Google or Bing this scatterbrained character.

You asked about the dinner which was a lucky win so I didn't try Grannies potato soup. Pescatarians eat only seafood protein. So:

Cucumber salad (sour cream and mint dressing)
Striped Bass in a tangy Thai marinade
Steamed crab with basil/butter/olive oil/ lime sauce for dipping
Corn on the cob
Toasted French baguette slices with either garlic butter or tangy roasted tomatoes and basil from the garden on top.
For dessert:
Vanilla ice cream with heated fresh peach slices in brown sugar and butter as a topping.
Hot tea/coffee to help finish the meal.

It was a cholesterol busters meal to die for.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Stingers and Zingers

These are the sea nettles of hot summer that like soft and gentle bubbles come floating in on the tides to all parts of the river from the Chesapeake Bay. They look so innocuous and carefree, but a brush against the little white tentacles will induce a fiery sting to tender skin. They come in tiny and large sizes; the one above being about 3 inches and they can reproduce when only 2.5 inches wide. They can grow as big as your open hand. They pump just below the surface of the water in search of food. This one was trapped in a tidal pond that was only a few inches deep. If the water is compromised (not healthy) the jelly fish are greater in numbers for some reason. The population is determined by both temperature and salinity but some scientists say the increase may be due to more nutrients being dumped from towns and cities running into the Bay to create more floating creatures to sting and eat. This year we do not have a huge population. If people are very concerned about these they can check the population movements for our area here.

My grandson was lying belly flat on the dock to look at some fish and crabs the other day and came away with a burn from some sea nettle slime that had landed on the deck falling from the crab traps placed there. He is a drama king but the sting must not have been all that bad, because after a wash with ammonia and a spray of Benadril he was A-OK and on to a new adventure.

I have been stung by jelly fish (NOT the Portuguese-Man-Of-War) in the South Pacific and while it really burned, the pain did not last long. Like many of the stinging/biting creatures of the world, the reputation sometimes exceeds the actuality.

P.S. Yes, this belongs on my 'other' blog but I have several posts waiting there already.
P.P.S. Logged into my email at 4:30 AM this morning when I found I could not pretend I was sleeping any longer and found a note from my step-nephew who is arriving for a weekend visit today with his girlfriend. The note said "I think I forgot to mention that A**** is a pescatarian." NOW he tells me?!!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ronnie's Challenge

Ronnie has given all us boomers a challenge to post our ideas about the health care reform activities on the 20th of this month. I could have done some research on segments of one of the 5 proposed bills, the one that is 1,000 pages, which I have not read in full, and write about that, but I won't as I think selective cherry picking on these bills is a waste of time. I have read numerous articles analyzing the various issues and watched lots of television discussion. I have watched all the white elderly citizens screaming at their Congressmen in various town hall meetings over this reform on CNN. I do not see Hispanics, Blacks, or very many young people angry in this debate. (Well, except for the black woman who was escorted out of a meeting after being attacked by another white elderly man at Senator McCaskill's meeting in Missouri for having a poster of Rosa Parks.) I really don't think specific issues of this health care are the reason for the angry debate. The bills are not even finalized. I don't hear people screaming at their Congressional representatives because they do NOT have health care. I do not hear these angry people proposing alternatives or specifics in their arguments. I am frustrated that most of these arguments are inaccurate, non-specific, use inflammatory speech and are based on a mind-set that is not open to discussion. I keep getting the impression that they are very happy with their current health care status and don't really care about those who do not have health care insurance. "I've got mine and you lazy bums can figure out how to get yours." I challenge these same gray-haired angry people to refuse the government run Medicare program when they reach 65.

Part of this seems to me to be an issue of trust---and perhaps in some cases, race. It seems that those who trusted the government to listen in on their phone calls and monitor their computer activities without warrant, do not trust the same government to find a way to provide health insurance to their neighbors and fellow citizens who do not have it. I am guessing that they also completely trust the insurance paid middle-men who are now determining what level of health care they receive under their current private insurance. They compare the ideas for the reform program to a 'socialist' Russia and seem to ignore the success of the Canadian and European health care systems.

This also is an issue of money. I have heard it said that it has to do with conservative people not wanting poor people to get something for nothing, fearing that the expense for this service will have to come out of their pockets.

Well, I also feel that I will be paying for it in some way. My health care costs are going to go up with or without this reform. They will go up with the reform to pay for health care for those who cannot pay or go up to pay for the inefficiencies and huge profits in the industry while many citizens go without, in spite of what this administration says. My health expenses already are inflated by including emergency room care for those uninsured. There are no guarantees but I think this reform will slow down the increase in costs for everyone. There are no guarantees that the private sector will not drop those insured right now...but they are doing that every day already. I still support the reform as it is the beginning of a long-needed process to improve health care for the richest country in the world and provide a safety net for us all. I just wish these same citizens against the reform would have been screaming at their Congressmen regarding the huge budget deficits that were incurred several years ago.

All that I have to write in this post is colored by the fact that I am not panicked for myself because I am in the catbird seat. I have the same type of health care that the Congress has (which as an aside is a government contracted program with private industry). I worked for the government for the correct number of years as did my husband. We have access to a number of health care plans, we can change plans every January to suit our needs regardless of pre-existing health conditions, and we still get reasonably good coverage. My husband's prostate surgery, his spinal surgery, the birth of my children, my biopsy...all paid for. Since my retirement our premiums have increased, but are still affordable. I remember years ago when a friend on one of the government health care programs needed a lung transplant. The program he was enrolled in refused to cover the operation. He would die without it. That 'death squad' consisted of the health insurance company employee(s). He had to wait the three months until he could change plans in January, got a different insurance company, and went on to have his transplant, even though he had a pre-existing condition. The government contract protected him from being excluded because of pre-existing conditions. Even this government program has its problems but this ability to change plans was his life-saver.

I remember the terrible fear I carried daily when my son had reached 21, graduated from college and could no longer be covered on either our insurance or a student health care plan. His employer provided no coverage. He did not make enough money to pay for health care and pay for his apartment and pay for food. We dug deep and paid for his health insurance until he got coverage through employment a few years later. (I have no idea if this insurance would have worked had he needed it!) What if we couldn't have afforded that? What if he had been involved in an accident or contracted some serious health condition with no coverage? Many hard-working employed people and hard-working students live with that fear daily and without health care reform more and more working people will have no health care.

To those who do not want government health care reform, I ask how you would feel if you had a life style disease and those Americans who were healthy said you should pay a much higher premium because of your poor eating habits, lack of exercise, dangerous life-style activities or decision to live in a polluted area? Why should other Americans subsidize your carelessness and poor life-style? Kind of cruel and frightening isn't it?

To me it is a no-brainer that we need to begin to move in the direction of reform, but hard to convince those not using their brains, and instead, using the fear in their gut and the concern for their wallets to think. Being against something totally is the easy way out. Having to come up with ideas and suggestions to improve this reform and letting your Congressmen know takes far more work.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I Am a Surprise, My Grandaughter Seeps, and My Grandson...well!

My grandson told me the other day that his mother said he had three surprises waiting for him when he climbed into the car from pre-school and two of them were people. I looked at him with a questioning frown and said "People??" He looked up at me with those warm brown eyes and silly smile and said "Yes, you and Doc!" Doc is what he calls his grandfather and we had just arrived that evening to spend the night. I like being a surprise even better than being surprised.

My granddaughter woke up from her deep night's sleep the first morning after her visit and called out to me, "Neena!" "Neena!" When I opened the door to the room where she had been sleeping she peered at me through the mass of hair hanging in front of her eyes and smiled. "I seeping!" she said. (I think she meant sleeping, but she also seeps when she sleeps if you know what I mean.)

While racing through the Wal-Mart yesterday toward the toy section with my 4-year-old grandson to select the 'promised' toy, we had to go past the women's lingerie section. There at the end of the aisle was a 'full' display of padded bras in bright colors with ribbons and lace. Xman could not stop himself (what male can?) and running to the display actually pinched the middle of one bra cup and with a gleam in his eyes smiled up at me and said "Boobies!" (Remember, he is 4!) This precocious 4-year-old has already asked the anatomy questions on the difference between boys and girls to his pre-school teacher and she had to send a 'smiling' note home to the parents to explain that she had referred these anatomy questions to them. (My daughter is saving the note.)

Next weekend my step- nephew who is in his 20's is visiting us with his new girlfriend...whom his parents have not yet met. Therefore I have strict instructions to keep my eyes open and tell them everything as well as take pictures because they think the pictures on his Facebook page are not good enough! I must put on my spy cloak, I guess. At least I have not been requested to deal with anatomy answers or sleeping arrangements!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thursday Thoughts #27 --- Litany of Too Much to Process

Apologizes ahead of time for this boring post...

  1. I took my granddaughter from her mother on Thursday morning having been childless at this house in the woods for too long. This was both totally exhausting and totally exhilarating at the same time. Daughter was generous to give her up since Wednesday had been her first day home in some time.
  2. My daughter was involved in a bankruptcy take-over in another state last week involving mucho dollars. She worked from 8:00 A.M. until late into the evening most days with only minutes for lunch and dinner. Since guards were stationed round the clock they wanted to finish their work as fast as possible. She was assisting with the computer forensics activities and was surprised to find how 'sloppy' or 'conniving' businesses are in tracking and evaluating their valuables. Some real valuables were found sitting under the computers!
  3. My son was asked to go on national tour with another band last month and had the good sense to turn them down.
  4. Overheard during an evening dinner party was a story about an argument between a representative from an insurance company talking to a very high level lawyer for the CIA regarding some argument over a settlement. Seems the CIA lawyer indicated that they could make this someone's life very miserable if they wanted without regard for the law. I know this 'someone' and he is just a young honest career dude trying to do his job. Didn't hear enough to know if it was under this administration or the one before. This scared me as I thought most of this stuff was over-hyped in movies.
  5. Having both grandchildren over the weekend was also a more than full session which included rubber pool swimming, squirt gun fights, big pool swimming, kite flying, crab catching, baby fish catching, caterpillar watching, tomato picking and beaching.
  6. My daughter was feeling sick Sunday morning and joked that maybe she was pregnant...I guess my reaction was too startling as she immediately suggested it was probably just eating too many fresh tomatoes and fresh sweet corn.
  7. Found and removed the tiniest tick from my husband's back yesterday. It was the size of an 11 point period! This has been the very worst year ever! If one of us does not get Lyme's, it will be a miracle.
  8. Continuing to read a rather slow, plodding book that I started last week and am wondering why I don't have the courage to put it down and start on something I might enjoy? (Actually I finally did put this book into the give-away box after reading to the very middle.)
  9. My refrigerator/freezer is stuffed with leftover homemade blackberry/peach cobbler, a homemade clementine cake, a watermelon and some ice cream...too many ways to get fat(ter).
  10. Two weekends ago I had house guests on Saturday and Sunday for boating and wine touring and barely got the house cleaned in time and the sheets changed for the next weekend's visitors.
  11. This past weekend, as I wrote above, was a two-day / two-night visit from my daughter and her two little ones. Toys and crumbs are still being found everywhere.
  12. This coming Friday I will prepare a dinner for a visiting business friend from Korea, and Sunday I will drive up to the city for my granddaughter's second birthday party and that is the easiest of the busy weekends coming up.
  13. I invited someone down to the house for a visit soon and then found that I am booked solid with stuff until the third week in September. Why don't I just keep my big mouth shut?
  14. In spite of this post, I really am NOT the social butterfly that it seems. Looking forward to 10 days of alone time when hubby takes off for Hawaii next month.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Good, the Bad and The Surprises

I am not an idiot. The fact that I feel compelled to write that, maybe leaves the statement open to some debate. I knew full well when I began once again the challenging landscaping/gardening journey that it was going to be a jazz exhausting jazz dance with my poor choreography. I had mentioned the Perennial Plant dance that takes place in the fall when you find some plants overtaking an area, or needing more sun, or better drainage or a better contrasting plant or just a better place to florish. I have about 10 15 plants that I will need to move this fall. I planted some too close to the house as a temporary space before the deer fence went up. Some are in deep shade that I did not expect and others have already outgrown their space.

good this year was the lovely purple flox that has bloomed for more than a month, the chaste bush that has already grown the size of a small tree and was in full bloom, the zinnias that have large and colorful blooms, the Celosia which had every single seed germinate until I was sticking plants in pots, in the ground and everywhere.

My chaste plant.

Celosia attracting lots of pollinators.

Good old fashioned zinnias.

A nice pink zinnia just begging to be put in a bouquet.

Even the green zinnia are attractive.

The surprise issue here is that I never realized Celosia grew four feet high! Sort of overpowers that little red pot doesn't it?

The same was true of the zinnias on the east side of the house. In deep shade a good part of the day, they grew over four feet in the 2 foot high raised bed. One has to be a basketball player to really appreciate their beauty.

This was a little surprise as it was supposed to be a very different coneflower when I bought it! The photo on the pot looked like a dahlia...a very new and exciting form and PINK! Since I cannot find the plant I thought I bought on the Internet, maybe it doesn't exist. Something is eating the leaves of this plant, so it is soon to not exist as well!

The surprise above is that the photo was taken the last week of July with temps breaking the 90's and the purple pansies were still blooming in this pot. It is on the north side of the house in mostly shade.

Unfortunately I had to post one poor sunflowers. 30 plants all chewed or knocked down and only two blossoms trying to put on a show as they lay flat against the earth. Of course, there was NOT a lot of sun and there was lots of rabbits, ground hogs, etc.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


A lovely sunset last night on the river

I have been thinking much more lately of my parents. I try not to miss that they are gone and that I no longer have time to build a closer relationship with them. Perhaps it is the pictures of my childhood that I have retrieved that is pushing me on this backward journey. In several photos my mother is younger than I am today...that grabs my mind and heart and makes me a little dizzy. She looks fresh and happy. I do not remember her that way. I know that if she was in front of me right now we would get off on one of those stilted conversations where she makes me feel less than I am. One of those conversations where she is the grand martyr and I am the self-centered daughter. I love(d) her, but she could be an energy sump to be with. I am trying to accept the flow of the river of time. If I dwell too long I make myself sad and that doesn't accomplish anything.

There is a common idea that if we could go back in time we might better appreciate the moments with the wisdom we have since gained. Well, I realize that is a fallacy. I am watching my grandchildren grow and change like cornstalks in the field after a rain. I am aware of the moments when I am with them and I appreciate every second, but time still rushes on by and they still are growing and changing faster than I can deeply grasp. It is not about wisdom gained with experience. It is about realizing that we cannot slow down time. We cannot pace our lives as we wish. Having time to reflect and understand only helps a little. We still will make mistakes and have regrets no matter how wise we have become.

Life is like a river. It rushes dangerously fast in some places, then goes slowly and peacefully (or dully) in others. We are just along for the ride and try though we might, we miss much stuff in communication and relationships and understanding how others are truly feeling. We try to put ourselves in their place, but the river quickly pushes us on to somewhere else and we must process all over again that new color in the water and that new ripple.

I guess that there are people who know this truth most of their life. They do not waste time second guessing a decision or a relationship. But, I think for most of us, it is a crazy journey and we cannot really see the destination as well as we would like. It is a far way ahead and it will be whatever it is when we get there. We hope that we will understand it and recognize its meaning, and find it is something we can accept but hope is all we get at this turn in the river.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Hotness Factor

Still tripping over my feet on that Memory Lane which has become somewhat overgrown with a large tangle of aging vines. When you are hot, you are hot. When you're not, you're clearly not. What more can I say? I rarely would consider turning back the clock on my life, but if I could have this day over again I think I would. I really look so 'full of it' in this photo. It was a perfect fall day, I had a brand new car (yes, that is an actual car and not a toy) and freedom. I am sure that I felt I had the world by a string and could wrap it around my finger. Innocence is sometimes too underrated.