Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Now I long for the little shops we had 20 or 30 years ago. I could buy Petit Belle nylons at FWWoolworth, toddler snowsuits at Caldor, and a dress at E J Korvette. Zayre had great sales on toys before the holidays, and Ames always had a good selection of housewares. These stores had so much stuff, good quality stuff, and most of it was made here in the USA. There were also really good clothing stores, like the one my mother used to go to. The clerk would be able to pick out the correct size bra for her, no fuss and bother. When she needed a special occasion dress, it was THE place to go. But it’s gone now. So we wander through Kohl’s and Macy’s and find nothing she could wear.
We used to have fabric stores with material selections that would have me rushing home to sew so that I could come back for more. Fabric was also available at Woolworth, Ben Franklin, and unusual places like the Banksville market. All of it was nice stuff at terrific prices. If I want to whip up something now, the only choice in this area is Joann’s, which really doesn’t have as great a selection as it could. More than half of the store is for crafts, and a large portion of the fabric is quilt-friendly. When you subtract the upholstery fabric, it leaves a small section of fleece, flannel, special occasion, juvenile prints, and lastly – top and bottom weights. I usually walk out of there empty handed. Where’s a jersey knit in a nice print when you need it?
The one holdout from the past is the small, independent hardware store. They’re usually tucked into the corners of town. The kind of place where the gentleman working there likes to answer your questions, and knows what each tool and gizmo is for because he’s used most of them on his own house. In the middle of winter he will go into the back room and find a box of rubber rings for wide-mouth canning jars for you. He doesn’t tell you that they don’t have any now because they’re only stocking winter items.
Yes, I miss the selection we had back then. I believe we’ve gotten exactly what we wanted, low prices of cheap stuff that we’re not satisfied with. So that we can throw it away and run out to buy more.
Full Disclosure: I do very little shopping at retail stores, preferring to peruse second hand shops for my needs.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
It's 6:30 on the east coast, but there's still time to mix up a batch for TV viewing tonight. Yes, you probably have everything in the cupboard.
makes 1 8x8" square pan
preheat oven to 350 degrees
grease one 8x8" square pan
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 teasp baking powder
1/4 teasp salt
1/4 teasp cinnamon
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teasp vanilla
1/2 cup chopped pared cooking apples
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (optional)
Cinnamon-sugar for sprinkling
1. Sift flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon into bowl.
2. Melt butter in a medium-size saucepan over moderate heat. Remove from heat. Beat in sugars, egg and vanilla with a wooden spoon until smooth.
3. Stir in flour mixture, apple and nuts until thoroughly combined. Spread into a greased 8x8x2-inch pan. Sprinkle with 1 Tablespoon cinnamon-sugar mixture.
4. Bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees) for 30 minutes, or until top springs back when lightly touched with fingertip. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into squares.
Cinnamon-sugar: Combine approximately 1 Tablesp sugar with 1/8 teasp cinnamon.
It's been a rainy day here in New England, perfect for a cuppa tea and something sweet. Have a great evening!
Friday, September 25, 2009
“A freelance position that turns into a full time job without benefits.”
Quoted from the Urban Dictionary
In the past few years we have watched as benefits are being further reduced. Employers are passing along increases in healthcare premiums to the employees. Many have reduced percentages that they deposit into retirement accounts. Now the trend is to bring in free lancers, not having to provide a health care package or vacation pay. This is not referring to someone doing a journalism spot, but people brought in to answer the phone and enter data.
Does the corporate entity no longer have any responsibility for the people who perform the work? Do they consider the repercussions of a society of employees without benefits?
Yes, gone are the days of working for the same company until retirement and a pension. But in their desire to save money, this new method of operation leaves more people hanging by that thread; not funding 401Ks or having medical coverage. Which leaves our country that much less prepared for the future.
It's just a thought. But one that should be considered.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
I visited with my youngest son and his girlfriend on Sunday morning before I left VT. It was a short visit this time but I had to find my way to the Cape, putting my faith in a printout from Mapquest.
There had been a street rod show nearby over the weekend and many of the participants were on their way home, so there was a lot of chrome and wild colors passing me on the highway.
I followed the Mapquest directions, surprised to find myself going straight through Boston.
I arrived at the Cape early enough to unload my car and go for a slow bike ride around the town, stopping for an ice cream cone. I decided to put my feet up and watch television, and save the sightseeing for Monday.
Monday morning I biked to a local diner for eggs, homefries, and coffee. Then I set out for the shore. After cycling through the town, I soon saw the brilliant blue water sparkling in the sun. I rode along the shore, riding into the wind that was blowing off the water, which was quite a work out. The air was filled with the heavenly perfume from the last of the beach roses (rosa rugosa). Chipmunks skittered across the path. Are they preparing for winter, or did the 77 degree temperature have them confused? It was interesting to see the platforms that have been built in natural preservation areas for the Ospry nests. They are protected by law, and encouraged to nest in these areas that have natural food for them.
Once I returned to town I walked my bike along the sidewalk, window-shopping. The clothes and jewelry were gorgeous. But then I started thinking about home. Should I stay another day or go home to my own four walls and bed? As nice as it was to go by my own internal clock instead of the one on the wall, I had accomplished my goal of sightseeing in New England, riding my bike on different paths, and going almost completely tech-free (cell phone excluded out of necessity.) I decided to go home.
I hadn't looked up directions to get back to CT, but had a general idea of following route 28 to 495, to 195, to 95.
It worked. "Connecticut Welcomes You" (through my very dirty windshield!)
In our conversation on Thursday evening, my son said that the excavation and foundation for the new church was complete, and all available hands would be assemblling for construction at 7:00 on Saturday morning. My reply was "Great. I'll help." I knew most of the parishoners and the pastor, and it would be great to see them again.
There were at least two large bags filled with empty bottles and cans that were found in the overgrowth of weeds, wild vines, and scruffy shrubs.
The building crew worked under capable supervision of one of the church members who earns his living as a contractor/builder. Everyone stopped to watch the first wall go up at 1:10pm.
This is the real New England; it's people working together, building community. There were breaks for coffee and lunch, with baked goods and sandwiches of all kinds. The caring and love was evident in the preparation of the food to nourish the crew. The pride radiated as the walls came together.
I'm really happy for these folks, who've been without a church "home", and I'm looking forward to attending mass there on one of my next visits.
And I slept so well that night!
(More to come...)
Here in New England you can find some great barns. As I took this photo, a rooster was crowing somewhere behind me.
I rode past a few nurseries with acres of evergreen trees and bushes, and a few farms, but mostly woods and backyards. As on most bikepaths, there are usually a few restaurants that welcome two-wheeled passers-by. I'm keeping this one in mind for my next trip.
I only travelled about half the distance of the path, approximately 8 - 9 miles, and returned to my travelling, arriving in Burlington, VT around 3:00pm on a beautiful, sunny day. In appreciation of the weather, I took a 9 mile spin on the Burlington Bike Path (also a former railway line).
The evening was filled with happy grandchildren. Who could ask for anything more?
I've got more photos to post tomorrow - part two.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Hoping everyone has the chance to get outside this weekend and enjoy early fall sights, sounds, and aromas. I'll catch up with you next week!
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
How true. I could write a few paragraphs on that however my mind thought about it slightly differently.
Give envy an inch...
This week someone was showing off their new phone to me. They bought it because someone else had just purchased that model. They also bought a Wii for the same reason. Envy seems to take a good, strong hold of some people.
Give narcissism an inch...
Haven't we all known the person who had to be in the spotlight, get the attention, sometimes even to the extent of saying untrue things of others in an effort to shine? The people with this affliction go deeper and deeper into self-importance until it becomes a nasty trait.
Each of these have the same outcome; the trait takes a life of its own. It becomes a Ruler. However, it doesn't seem to work the same when we replace these with desirable traits. They start weaker and must be encouraged and tended.
It is not "natural" to:
Give empathy an inch
Give caring an inch
Give neighborliness an inch
These don't take hold as easily. They retreat once the moment has passed. We need to reflect on them so they don't run away. We need to act on them to build momentum. So that we won't be ruled by greed, or envy, or hate.
Give love an inch
Saturday, September 12, 2009
I am so intrigued by this building that I stopped one day to take pictures so that I could save the images forever. It has obviously been closed for a long time.
The windows must have been beautiful, considering their size. They have been boarded over, and the boards have been painted as to imitate the windows. I tried to imagine an evening with lights shining through the original glass.
There is still evidence of its grandeur with details in the columns topped with acanthus leaves that flank the windows, the railing and spindles across the top, and scrollwork near the arches on the facade.
It certainly draws my attention on this city block.
Wouldn't it be ideal as a theater, for plays or maybe the opera?
As I stated in my front porch post, no one seems to be connecting with their neighbors. The fine art of sitting on the front porch, or stoop, is gone. Knowing your neighbors' children has disappeared also, who made the basketball team, who's starting junior high this year, who had to stay after school for whatever reason. We are so involved in our own little worlds that we don't want to connect with those who share our street name on their address labels.
The house I grew up in was on US Route 1, a very busy street here in the northeast. On summer nights we would sit in our tiny front yard to enjoy the evening and each other's company. So many people would park their car and stop by to chat with my folks, and if they couldn't stop they would honk their car horn and wave as they passed by. This was part of our tiny front yard.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
An amount or quantity beyond what is considered proper, usual, or sufficient
Reported this morning on WCBS news radio: On the set of her new movie, Sarah Jessica-Parker wears a necklace worth $198,000; more than the median price of a home in the US.
Shortly after, their housing report stated that for the month of August mortgage institutions filed 358,000 foreclosures, which equals 1 out of every 357 US homes.
This article from the NYTimes details people who are no longer counted as “unemployed”. They have been unable to find work for so long, the Bureau of Labor Statistics now counts them as 758,000 “discouraged workers”. The profiles in this article are heart-wrenching.
Why is the movie industry still promoting the excessive lifestyle? Would it better serve us by helping instill “family values”? $198,000? C’mon, couldn’t a sparkly paste necklace achieve the same effect?
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
The first car that had my name on the title was a secondhand white ’64 Buick Special. Considered to be a smaller car for the era, it was still larger than those that we drive now. I used to put gas in the tank every few days since the gauge didn’t work, not wanting to be stranded miles from a station. This proved to be embarrassing at times. In the days when service stations were about service and had attendants, you weren’t allowed to operate the pump. I would ask to have it filled, guessing that it was low, only to have the pump stop with less than a dollars worth of petrol. I would have to sit there while the attendant finished cleaning the windshield and checking the oil.
The car ran great but had some rust inside the vent in front of the windshield. When it rained it would drip on my left foot. If it rained enough there would be a puddle on the floor, which was fine when driving uphill since it would flow to the back. Going downhill was another story.
My next vehicle was this great Oldsmobile Cutlass with the power of a stallion. The former owner had ordered it for the purpose of towing a small camper, thus the big engine. This car was so sweet! It was made for cruising on summer nights, which I did. I also hand waxed it on Saturday afternoons.
One day on my way home from the beach there was a problem with the fuel pump, resulting in an engine fire. I was able to pull over, and sadly stood there watching the fire department hose it down. I stopped by the tow yard to take my things out of the trunk and had this good-bye picture taken.
After that I drove a ’73 Duster in ‘Tahitian Gold’, which was really a brownish bronze metalflake, and a ‘snakeskin’ roof. It was a great car, except for ventilation. The rear windows were some of the first that didn’t roll down, they popped out about two inches the way some minivan windows do now. Sometimes it was just too hot for anyone riding in the back seat, which upset me once I married and had an infant in a car seat back there.
I’ll skip over the years of married life where the cars were ‘ours’, not ‘mine’. There were some sweet slant 6’s and a ’71 Chevy pickup during those years….
Shortly after I set out on my own again I bought a ’95 Ford Ranger, one of the most dependable trucks on earth. I put that baby through its paces! There were moves loaded with furniture and trips to the dump. It carried cubic yards of mulch each spring to cover the flower beds I created. It pulled up the stump and roots of a bush that had to be at least sixty years old with roots as thick as my forearm. I picked up free furniture that folks had set by the road. And there were three trips to the quarry, driving home with ½ ton of gravel on each trip, the back end somewhat lower that the front. Each time I held my breath and swore not to do it again.
It had 185,000 miles on the engine when I traded it in, and was then sold to another eager person. I had moved into a condo and declared that I no longer needed to haul anything, words that I’ve eaten a few times. But for now I’m happy with my Subaru, ready to make more memories.
Monday, September 7, 2009
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Years later, the transfer station where I was living had a “ReUse” shed where you could put, or take, useable items. It was a great place to pick up an extra length of garden hose or a few flower pots. There was always a selection of books, toys, cross country skis, and sometimes a record player or even a bureau. I was surprised at how many people seemed to be giving up golf, as full sets of clubs in those big, clumsy leather bags would show up quite often. Every few months a set of encyclopedia would line the shelves. A fifteen year old set is outdated and almost useless due to access to libraries and the internet. Even the information in a five year old set is questionable.
I had placed some things there, and took a few, too. My biggest regret was not carrying off the box with the vintage shiny aluminum Christmas tree. It had been completely disassembled with the branches carefully stored in the brown paper sleeves, most likely since its last use in the ‘60s. The box was large, it was a hot day, and I hadn’t had a tree for a few years. Not wanting to store more holiday decorations, I walked away. Growing up, we always had a real tree, so I wasn’t trying to re-create the past. However, sometimes my back side hurts from the many times I’ve kicked myself since then. (Oh, the eBay possiblities!) I hope that at least someone has enjoyed it.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
I boiled some wild and long grain rice that will be used for a quick stir fry.
Lentils were cooked to be ready for veggie burgers. I've been making this recipe since Rob posted it on his website, after he found it on Red-Icculus's website. I'll use the last of my giardiniera to top the burgers. (Time to can up another batch.)
I also made some raspberry spread from a package of berries in the reduced section of the produce department at a grocery store. $3.99 raspberries for $1.33, and in good condition - no fuzzies. I knew they wouldn't last so I put them in a saucepan with a touch of sugar and let them bubble into a sauce, then added a little lemon juice. Perfect addition to my oatmeal. I should have enough to make it through Monday morning.
Later today I'm making Parsnip and Cheddar Souffle from the January 1995 issue of Bon Appetit. (Found the issue at Goodwill yesterday.) And to satisy the sweet tooth it's Rice Pudding from "Mott's:A Better Way to Bake/Delicious Low Fat Recipes". These two recipes are new for me, and my hopes are pretty high on them.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Tonight I enjoyed a wonderful dinner of summer squash and boneless chicken breast, pounded thin, and browned in a cast iron skillet. I made a gravy from the browned bits in the pan, a little white wine added. Now I'm going to put my feet up and nod off.
I'll be getting up early tomorrow for a walk on the beach and to do some exploring.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
I picked up a temporary position as a “transit clerk”, entering the deposits at a large bank. Back in the 80’s they would hire an evening crew to enter every deposit through a machine that read those funny black numbers printed on the bottom of the check. There was also a keyboard where we typed in the deposit total. It was busy during the winter holiday shopping season, so they brought in temps like me. It was good, but the bank became more technically streamlined and moved the procedure to their main branch in another state.
But my favorite part-time job was as a home knitter. There is a cottage industry in some rural areas where savvy women can stay at home and earn a nice paycheck by making sweaters and ski hats. They need to own and understand the workings of an automatic knitting machine, usually electric, and now these are mostly computerized. A local company will have you run up some samples to judge your work and if you pass their standards, they supply the yarn and designs for a set amount of items. You return with the items on a weekly or bi-weekly basis and they will write out a check. For a while I knitted for two companies in a ski resort town, so I made weekly trips to this land with interesting shops and wonderful cafes. I brought my youngest, not yet in school, with the promise of a treat at the bakery.
As with most home knitters, I saw that there was money to be made on my own. I sourced the yarn, ran up my own designs, and worked some craft fairs. I didn’t get wealthy, and the hours were long. But I learned about sourcing supplies, getting credit as a business entity, and looking for sales opportunities. I still like the idea of being responsible for my future, and would like to do something along these lines again.