Category Archives: home

Good News – Well, For Me Anyway

Twice before in my life in corporate America, it has been rough times.  Nothing quite like this, but for the travel industry, tough.  After 911, with all the airlines shut down and folks scared, everything went very quiet in my division for several weeks.   The second time was the recession of 2009, when companies thought that having incentive programs would make them too “visible”.  All the bank programs went first (even the banks that never took monies from the government), but many followed suit.  During both of these times, management was very serious and a vice president actually said out loud that it wasn’t a time for happiness.

I’m feeling the same right now, as if joy and happiness have been outlawed and I think this is more stressful for me than the general situation.  So it is with trepidation that I announce I am experiencing some happiness right now.

When YA was six, we took that vacation to Maine for the Machias Blueberry Festival.  I know I’ve mentioned this before.  I journaled, took photos and collected postcards, placemats, brochures and anything else I thought could be useful in a scrapbook.  When we got home, I found a good supply of stickers and doo dads at the craft store; I already had a good supply of rubber stamps of lighthouses – I’ve collected them for years.

I got the scrapbook designed and in the first month or so, I managed to get about a third of my material mounted and decorated.  Then things got busy and I put all the items in a black wire basket that eventually got shunted to the top of my studio bookshelf.  As YEARS went by, I often looked up at it, but never felt like I had time to really dig back into the project.  Well, I have time now, so last weekend, I pulled the basket down, dusted everything off (cough, cough) and got to work.  It took me a bit to figure out the font I had been using and I spent about an hour sorting everything out, putting things in piles by location and eventually finding a scrap of paper in the bottom of the basket that I had used to record where we had been each day.  Gold.

So I’m happy to announce that finally, nearly 20 years later, the Maine scrapbook is finished.  I was on a roll, so I also did two little scrapbooks for Rhiannon and Zorro as well!  I have all three of them in my bedroom, where every time I notice them, I get a little thrill of accomplishment.  Wondering if I would have such a good feeling about the scrapbook if I had actually finished it 20 years ago?

Any projects you’ve been putting off for far too long?

Skim vs. Powdered

Our discussion the other day about paper plates reminded me of stories that my folks used to tell about their early married life.  My dad was in basic training in North Carolina and my mom moved there to be close to him.  She taught gym part-time and they lived in a small trailer.  One of the stories they told me about how broke they were was that they couldn’t afford to buy a set of plates.  So not only did they eat on paper plates, they cut the paper plates in half!

By the time I came along, they were in better shape, although still not great; my dad was in law school with two part time jobs and my mom was forced to quit working the minute the school district found out she was pregnant!  As a kid, things were tight, not destitute, but definitely tight. One of the ways that my mom saved on groceries was by using powdered milk.  I still remember it after all these years, chalky and for some reason never seemed to get really cold.  I hated it.

At least once a month we had Saturday dinner at my grandparents’ house – hamburger and french fry night.  There were a lot of reasons that I liked to eat my Nana and Pappy’s; one of those reasons was that they had “real” milk.  It was always very cold because that’s the way Pappy liked it and there was always plenty.  They had a special half-gallon carton holder that looked like this:

When my younger sister started school and had “real” milk every day, she began refusing to drink the powdered milk at home.  While I hadn’t been brave enough to do this on my own, I quickly followed her lead and my mom gave up and began to buy “real” milk.  I started drinking skim about 30 years ago and I’m still a big milk drinker all these years later.  My mom doesn’t understand how I can drink skim and  has suggested more than once that I “might as well go back to powdered milk”.  Yes, after all these years, she still remembers how we “forced” her to buy milk.

My milkman told me yesterday when he was making our delivery that big local dairies are going to discontinue skim milk production for a bit.  Apparently skim milk requires more steps and production time; during our current crisis, trying to keep up with demand means cutting out skim so more easily produced milks can make it to market faster.  Who would have thought?  Guess I’ll be on a higher fat milk for a while.

Do you remember any meals you enjoyed at your grandparents’?

Felix or Oscar?

Today’s post comes to us from Minnesota Steve

The Odd Couple was a popular play that then became a hit movie and then became a television series that ran for five years. The original play, written by Neil Simon, features conflict between recent two divorcees who room together. Felix is a neat freak; Oscar is a slob who is comfortable being a slob. Essentially, the two characters are defined by their very different positions on the OCD scale. I particularly liked the movie. In it, fussy Felix was played by Jack Lemon, an actor who could do crankiness well. Oscar was played perfectly by Walter Matthau.

One reason I found the jokes appealing was how they mirrored my relationship with my favorite hunting and fishing partner, Bill. Bill was Felix; I was Oscar. Bill used to wear suspenders and a belt to keep his pants up; by contrast, I’ve been known to wear neither, with predictable results. We have been pals for over fifty years. Bill has gradually grown less uptight, while I have become somewhat more prepared. It has been the best friendship I ever had.

I was shocked to learn, when I was in my sixties, that I had slight OCD tendencies. One night I sat behind a woman during a small theatrical production. The tag on her blouse was sticking out. I found myself seriously tempted to tuck the tag out of sight. I didn’t, of course. Men who rearrange the clothing of women they don’t know might suffer harsh consequences. I couldn’t wait for that play to end because that loose tag was like a bit of grit in my eye.

When I moved to Michigan, a family friend helped set up in my new apartment. She donated glasses, silverware and furniture so the place would be livable when I arrived. To my disgust, I found myself freaked out by having “mixed” flatware. I lived for 48 years using nothing but the lovely Dansk flatware my erstwife and I got when we were married. After Nancy’s intervention, my elegantly stylish flatware shared a drawer with all kinds of alien forks and spoons from Walmart or who-knows-where. Every time I opened the silver drawer I was disgusted by the clash of styles. When I moved back to Minnesota I secretly dumped all the alien utensils.

So I’m still Oscar, but have a carefully hidden streak of Felix that only my best friends see.

How about you? Are you more slob or neatnik? Do you have enough OCD in you to be slightly bothered by it from time to time? Sitting in the doctor’s waiting area, did you ever straighten up the stacks of magazines?

Frenzy of Pie

It’s a pie trifecta here (hope I’m using that correctly).  Stuck in the house, a little blue (working at home is not growing on me yet) and have lots of pie ingredients hanging around.

Last weekend I made a blueberry pie for YA and a pear croustade (fancy way to say pears in puff pastry).  Then a couple of days ago, a blender lemon pie (SO easy).  Yesterday I made a peanut butter cream cheese whipped cream Reese’s pie… not sure what the actual name is.  Over the weekend, there is apple crumble to be made and I might make another of the blender lemon (it went fast and I still have lemons).  My neighbors on either side are benefitting from this frenzy.

Of course, I’m also doing other dishes for comfort.  Made a pizza on Monday, roasted cauliflower on Wednesday, hash brown parmesan “cups” last night.  YA has requested tomato soup… I still have tomatoes in the freezer from last summer so that’s do-able.  Might have to make a quick run to the store for onions and garlic.  I think I might do ramen pad thai too.

I know we’ve talked about comfort food before, but anything you’re craving this week?

Sticking Point

Yesterday was my first mandatory day to work from home. My office went from a surprising “you can work from home all you want” on Wednesday to “we strongly encourage you to work from home” on Thursday to “why are you here?” on Friday. I’m bright. I can take a hint.

So for the first time in 30+ years, on Friday afternoon I packed up my computer, my binders, my headset, my little box of pens, got a ream of paper for printing and headed out. Then promptly went back in and got my plant.

Over the weekend I thought about how my day would be different working from home. First, I would gain close to an hour by chopping off my morning and afternoon commutes. Then there would be my lunch hour, which I normally speed in my cube, sometimes working, sometimes reading. I decided that I wanted to put that extra time to good use – intentionally.

So today, I read a little longer in the morning, worked on a project during “lunch” and then at 4:30, took Guinevere for a little walk. Nothing big or earth-shaking, but at the end of the day I didn’t feel quite so stuck in the house. I’m not sure yet what other intentional things I will do in the next couple of weeks; I don’t want every day to be the same. But I do know that yesterday felt good and I wasn’t nearly as unhappy working from home as I thought I might be.

How do YOU get “unstuck”?

Foodie?

With all the channels that I have access to, I usually just scroll through the tv guide; I only have a few channels actually memorized. I don’t suppose it will surprise you that Food Network and The Cooking Channel are two of those channels?

There are quite a few shows on those two channels that I don’t watch. Any kind of competition in which one of the contestants gets thrown off at the end – I won’t watch that.  It’s just mean.  I don’t have too much trouble with contests where at the end they just announce one winner, as long as there isn’t too much trash talk, but no throwing people out!.  (And please.. nobody needs to tell me how different “The Great British Bake Off” show is and how I’ll like it – I’ve heard it all before.)

My favorite kinds of shows feature different dishes from places around the world, shows like “Bizarre Foods”, “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”, “Unique Sweets”, etc. I’ll even watch Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-ins & Dives” in a pinch, although he’s not my favorite chef.

Last Sunday, while enjoying Leap Day, I was switching back and forth between two cooking shows that were on at the same time. One of those shows was “Unique Sweets”, a program that showcases desserts from different bakeries around the country.  By luck of the draw, at one point there was a dish on each channel that were both interesting to me, so while “Unique Sweets” was showing ingredients being stirred together, I flipped to the other channel.  They were also showing some ingredients being stirred together, but it seemed like they were stirring really quickly.  I switched back and forth several more times before I figured out that Unique Sweets appears to be slowing down some of their food prep shots a bit compared to “live action”.  This caught my attention so I watched a whole bunch of “US” episodes very closely and what I discovered is that slowing down the action makes the food seem a lot more appealing; more sumptuous, more mouth-watering.  That would explain why I like this show so much.  Does this mean I’m into “food porn”?  Or am I just imagining it?

What makes your mouth water?

Lift Thine Eyes To The Hills

There is a somewhat short butte four blocks east of my house. It is a city park. This outcropping of rocks, grass, and trees is as wide at the top as one football field, and as long as two football fields.  Poderosa pines cover the sides,  and is home to a large flock of vultures in the summer and fall. It is in the middle of a well established residential area . There are walking trails, a play ground,  and picnic areas on it.  It is an easy climb to get to.

The butte is fairly flat at the top, and on the western edge there is a water tower.  The water tower is shaped like a grain bin and is about three stories tall. It sits squat on the ground, and it is visible for blocks. It is visible from my house. I have seen it countless times over the past 30 years.  It has always been a blotchy, rusty,  silver color.

Imagine my surprise on Wednesday when I was driving past the park and I noticed that the water tower was now a delicate shade of baby pink. No one paints in the winter, so it must have been painted months ago, and I didn’t notice until now. I was shocked, not only that it was pink (what an odd color) but that it took me so long to notice something so close to me. It made me wonder what else I am not seeing.

What have you failed to see that was in plain sight? How are your powers of observation?