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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Things Break

     It seems like, just like lightbulbs that all burn out at the same time, appliances and vehicles need replacing or repairing all in the span of a month or two.
In June the dishwasher began making a horrible grinding noise when it was turned on, and since it was 10 years old we replaced it.  I like the new one much better!  However, it seemed to start a trend.  Now the washing machine is broken and the repairman quoted a price to fix it that is as much as a new one costs.  So a-shopping we will go!  New things are nice, but they are also pricey so bye-bye savings!  The ice maker on the refrigerator stopped producing ice, but at least that was something I was able to remedy myself.  All I had to do was clean under the refrigerator where the coils are and the ice maker resumed operation.  Note to self—clean under there regularly!  As for lightbulbs, all the ones in the kitchen burned out the same week.  I replaced them all so I guess that I can expect a repeat of that whenever they reach the end of their life.  My van needed new tires and some other service, and the wheelchair brakes haven’t held well in a very long time; random pieces of it fall off—a footplate, an armrest, the covering on the padding.  We ordered a new wheelchair and hopefully, if insurance doesn’t hold it up, it should be delivered to our princess in October, just in time for Halloween.  We had to replace the basement door due to it rusting and the sill rotting away, thus allowing water and debris (and who knows what else—yikes!) in.
It just seems like some years are like that.  Every time you turn around something else needs attention.  Fingers crossed that the washing machine is the end of it!

Friday, July 26, 2019

Christmas in July

I don’t know how Christmas in July started, or when, but I think it was likely some creative retailer’s way to increase sales in the middle of the summer when people have better things to do than shop.  The first I ever heard of it was when my kids were young and a teacher in the summer program asked if anyone had a table top artificial Christmas tree they could borrow.  After that I started to notice it in stores, so I guess it’s like when you’re looking to buy a red car all you see are red cars, even though they have likely been there all along without you taking any notice.  This year I decided to take it out of the background of my consciousness and act upon it.

It started with noticing that I had too many baking supplies in my pantry that I bought last December and didn’t use.  Even though we have been having some record breaking hot weather around here, I decided to do some baking.  I started with Fudge Nut Bars, and while they were baking I decided that I would write a long overdue letter to my friend who lives far away.  Then I decided that to save me from myself, (if I have the cookies in the house, I’m going to eat them; all of them.), so I packaged some in a Christmas themed container and mailed them to her along with the letter.  I also sent a plate of them with my daughter to put in the break room where she works.  I reasoned with myself that everyone bakes in December, but nobody really does in July.  Since I’m not working in the summer, and we are lucky enough to have central air conditioning, I enjoy baking year round.  I still had an abundance of baking supplies and my next temptation was chocolate chip cookies.  I must confess I have given none of them away; instead we’ve been munching away on them.  I had over ripe bananas so I made banana bread, one loaf I kept, and the other I took to an indoor cookout. (Yup, it’s an oxymoron but that’s what it was due to the excessive heat.)  Then someone in my husband’s office gave him a huge zucchini, perhaps it weighed about 4 lbs., and was over 2 feet long.  I made zucchini bread with that, and some fritters.  I kept one loaf of the bread, sent one to the woman who gave us the monstrosity, and gave one to the staff at my daughter’s day program.  They were so thankful for the treat!  Then I had more overripe bananas, so I made chocolate chip banana cupcakes with vanilla frosting.  I packaged up half of them and took to her physical therapist and staff saying “Merry Christmas in July!”  They enjoyed them, and I enjoyed how they dug right in and her assistant, with a little frosting on the corner of his lips declared them “So good!”

You know, it doesn’t take much to make people happy, to brighten their day.  Home baked goods always seem to be welcomed, and especially so in the summer when nobody else is giving them out. I still have various dried fruits, nuts, and some of the chocolate chips left, and time for doing things I enjoy.  I’m guessing there’s more baking in the near future and surprises in store for some lucky friends.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Is it Summer?

I think everyone has their own idea of what you do in the summer.  Some like to spend as much time in and on the water as possible swimming, boating, waterskiing, or just relaxing on the beach with toes in the sand soaking up the sun. For others, it’s a trip to the mountains to hike, or to camp, or flying off to a faraway place to see amazing sights and experience different cultures.  Then there are those, who like me, think that it isn’t summer unless there are cookouts, iced tea, and other activities close to home.

When I was younger there were cookouts in the summer in my parents’ back yard with my mother’s homemade potato and macaroni salads, burgers and dogs on the grill, iced tea and lemonade, and toasted marshmallows for dessert.  When I grew up my husband and I took picnics to state parks and cooked our burgers on the charcoal grills there.  Once we bought our house we had a gas grill and still had cookouts.  As time went on and our children grew up we spent less and less time outside in the summer, and a few years ago I realized that unless I purposely went outside I was spending all my summer inside in the air conditioning.  But if you’re not sweating, is it even Summer? I push myself to take a book outside on a hot summer day and read in the shade, or go to the park for a walk where the smell of the hot sun on a field covered in white clover with honey bees and butterflies flitting flower to flower brings me back to my childhood when summer was spent outside.

Recently my husband and I attended a cookout at a friend’s house where we were greeted by the sight of colorful chairs arranged in a circle around a fire pit.  It was a small gathering of friends, each one bringing a side dish to share, and hot dogs and hamburgers provided by the hosts.  The sun set as we laughed and ate, and just as a birthday cake was lit for one of our friends, lightning bugs rose out of the grass and bushes creating a light show as we sang the birthday song.  It was a warm evening so we didn’t light the fire, but citronella torches were lit and we lingered there in the growing darkness merrily chatting over coffee.  It was a lovely time and it wasn’t until we were in the car driving home that I realized the mosquitos had been feasting on my legs.  They were so itchy!  Calamine lotion gave a brief respite from the irritation of the large welts the bugs caused.  While it was uncomfortable to have the bites on my legs, I wondered to myself, is it really Summer if you don’t get any mosquito bites?

Summer is such a seemingly short season, even though the days are long and hot, that we try to pack as much into it as we can.  Vacation trips, recreation, and cookouts make the 3 months of summer memorable for many.  Pack in as much outdoors time as you can so that once the cooler weather hits and your chased indoors you don’t ask yourself if it was really ever summer.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019


It’s a happy kind of tired
After working in your yard,
Trimming things and sprucing up,
You forget you’re working hard,
But when you stop you find out,
You have muscles you forgot,
Will we do it again tomorrow?
I’m thinking maybe not!

While enjoying a weekend afternoon planting some flowers in hanging baskets, I began to take note of the various bushes we have planted over the years.  There are Rose of Sharon I transplanted from my parents’ yard when we moved into our house, some Forsythia, Azalea, Lilac, and Rhododendron. There is also a Wisteria.
I bought the Wisteria the summer after my mother passed away. She had one in the side yard that had the most beautiful clusters of light purple flowers on it. It was also an aggressive grower and took over the area where it was planted.  Mine is growing on a trellis against the deck and I keep it trimmed so that it’s a bit more like an out of control small leafy tree, but it gives us a bit of privacy when on the deck and some shade in the yard. If we have too many days in a row of rain and hot temperatures it takes over the deck and I fill a large yard bag with clippings when trimming it back to its useful form.  We had to tie the trellis it grows on to the deck rail because when the wind blows too strongly from the North it falls over from being top heavy, and recently my husband noticed that its weight is pulling the deck rail apart.  I’m not sure what we’re going to do about that! We have needed to right it several times over the years.  We cut it back severely in the Fall so the weight of ice and snow won’t further damage anything. It has never had flowers, as I didn’t realize when I purchased it that it can take 20 years to mature before blooming. Oh well, I have a few more years to wait, and at least it’s useful in the meantime.
We recently drove past the house where I grew up, and I noticed the Wisteria is gone, but mostly the yard and house look the same.  I regret that I forgot to look and see if the red rose that grew under my parents’ bedroom window is still there. I’ll have to drive by the house the next time I’m in my hometown. It’s funny the things you remember when you go back to the neighborhood where you grew up. There is a house at the other end of the block on the corner that always had and still has a wooden stockade type fence around the back yard. Every time I walked past that house, there was a large dog that barked and growled as I walked past, the whole length of the fence. It terrified me every time, but that’s the side of the street that had a sidewalk so I had to walk there.  I was always afraid the dog would somehow escape and attack me.  I don’t know what type of dog it was, and don’t remember the name of the family who lived there; I just remember the terrified feeling it gave me to walk along that fence.  As we cruised slowly down the street I mentally noted who lived in the houses—my oldest brother’s friend Richie in that one, my cousins in another, my mother’s friend in the one with the big porch, and the cranky old man who confiscated our kickball in the house next door to us.  Across the street lived the family who had a paving business and then sold the house to younger relatives who were on the rescue squad which was diagonally across the street from us and had 2 little girls.  The rescue squad building was a polling place during elections, and in later years was the site for a nutritional lunch program for seniors.  I still remember the sound the tires on the ambulance made on the crushed stone driveway when they were heading out on a call, but I don’t remember hearing the siren.
It is funny the things that we remember, and the things that jog our memory.  For me it was the Wisteria that took me on a trip down memory lane; tomorrow it could be something as mundane as a cup of water. You just never know.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Crooked Old Tree

When there’s no leaves on the trees I can see the intricacies of how they grow in relation to each other. In my back yard there is a stand of about 14 trees in the corner closest to the patio. I noticed recently, before the buds opened, how the branches mingle. There are mostly younger trees, maples with their trunks growing straight and tall. There is also some type of berry producing tree with smaller leaves. My daughter has always called it the crooked tree and it is fairly old. It grows at perhaps a fifty degree angle and so leans toward the others. It’s bark is rough and a darker color than its neighbors. The branches have grown around, but not encompassing, a couple of the smaller, younger trees in such a way that it looks as if the others are helping to support it, as young soldiers might support an old war veteran stooped with age.

As I sipped tea on the patio after dinner one evening I considered the crooked tree. It stands with its rough barked trunk curving in a couple places creating a snake-like appearance. I estimate the circumference of it to be about 2 feet. I think that if we were to ever cut it down the growth rings would be very close together. How old it is I do not know, but it was here when we bought our house thirty some years ago. How many harsh, cold winters and hot summers it has seen intrigues me. Perhaps it was  there when the house was built, just a sapling in the woods. My town was originally primarily a camping area. It hosted hunters in the colder months, and people camping by the mountain lake to escape the heat of the summer. Generations of chipmunks and squirrels surely frolicked on its trunk and among the branches, and it must have played host to countless bird’s nests. Those same creatures probably took shelter there from the summer rain, and feasted on the berries produced by the tree. As the plots of land were cleared to build cabins, how did that tree manage to be over looked?  I imagine it was silent witness to the campfires that campers had, the marshmallows roasted on whittled sticks and laughter of people relaxing from their workaday lives for a few weeks every year.  It has borne testament to the changes brought by our town becoming a year round place to live and work, the expansion of roads, houses, and businesses. Silently there while my children grew and played with their friends in the shade on hot summer days and in the snow during the winter. Like an old friend the tree keeps me company when I’m enjoying the outdoors.

Sometimes we don’t really think about the landscape that is part of our everyday lives.  I find it relaxing to muse about the life and history of the things around me when I get the chance to sit quietly and let my mind wander.