Thursday, December 31, 2009

Celebrate!




Best wishes to all for a Happy and Healthy 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A new year

It appears that the northeast will get another bout of snow and rain, with temperatures hovering around that freezing point in many areas, making travel a bad idea. Because of this possibility, I have changed my plans for the weekend. Instead of driving north I will stay put, finishing some things and starting others.

For the last two weeks I have been sorting through....well, everything. I have weeded through my clothes closet and the boxes downstairs in my storage room. I've made two trips to the Goodwill and tossed a few bags in the trash dumpster. My "stuff" is being whittled down to what is either: basic things necessary to everyday life or; things of personal or sentimental importance. I still have a few more things to sort through but I will be able to get those out of the way this weekend.

This process has been more than a just a chore. I've come to think of it as my "creed" for living. First; to participate in and value that which is necessary to everyday life, whether it be exercise and wholesome foods to keep healthy or to nourish physical and spiritual relationships, while disregarding things that do not enhance everyday life, such as products that waste the earths resources or mindless programs on television. Second; to respect and keep only things of personal importance. The little christening outfits that I've been keeping for decades now are of personal, sentimental importance to me, as are other things that were passed down through my family and items saved from the early years of my sons. Those will stay with me.

I believe that in these past two weeks I've learned what my New Year's resolutions will be. I will not pledge to lose weight, take up ice hockey, or keep my checkbook balanced.

My resolutions for living:

To participate in and value that which is necessary to everyday life, while disregarding things that do not add to that life.

To cherish things of personal, sentimental importance.


I think that just about sums it up for me.

Monday, December 28, 2009

perspective


I often enjoy watching hawks circling high in the air, searching for prey. They gracefully glide on air currents, sometimes rising higher as they cover large areas. I am in awe of how they float in the air the way we walk on the dirt, fully supported.



Twice last week something happened that I had never witnessed before. At two different locations, while getting out of my car a hawk landed less than twenty feet away, capturing a small field mouse. Each time the bird looked at me before doing away with its prey.


Anyone who spends time out in Nature knows this is the way the world works, the food chain and all that. But when you live in a "city" moments like these stand out. When they happen within a short time frame, it becomes curious.


Seeing a hawk close up, in some cultural circles, is a "sign" to view things from a larger perspective, to look at all the options and ramifications. Now, I don't necessarily look for "signs", readings, or such, but it has me wondering. I am preparing for a change. Am I overlooking something?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Good morning



While visiting this past week, I awoke to a beautiful sunrise. I had already watched most of it before I thought to get my camera. The last of the colors were just as intense, although fewer than the first.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

He's on his way......



I LOVE this picture that I found on the internet a few years ago. Owner/link unknown. I lost all information of the website it was from. I have posted it for your enjoyment, and hope the original owner would want it shared with you. Have a great Christmas knowing that Santa will get to your house, by sleigh or by subway!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Peace




To all:



However you choose to celebrate,


whatever your beliefs,


I wish you happiness.


Whether you attend services or family gatherings,


help at a mission, relax with friends, or spend time in nature,


may you be with those you love,


and may your heart be filled with the hope and wonder of the season.



Peace.















Sunday, December 20, 2009

Happiness is....a research study?

This list was released this week. I haven’t quite determined whether it was a good or bad idea to publish it one week before Christmas. That might depend on where your home state falls on the list. Folks from Maine will be proud that their state ranks number 10 of the happiest people in the U.S., whereas residents of the NY, NJ and CT area may not want to learn their ranking. Iowans (folks from Iowa?) have every reason to be happy at number 31. Remember it “isn’t Heaven, it’s Iowa” from Field of Dreams? And Kansans (number 32) know that there’s “no place like home”, like Dorothy realized in the Wizard of Oz. Of course, Florida (number 3) is the Sunshine State, and we have been told that exposure to the sun for even 10 minutes every day helps alleviate blue moods. But does anyone from the bottom of the list really want to know that their neighbors answered this survey negatively?

It seems that no one is happy in my home state since we’re bottom dwellers on here. Not much to brag about in that. But if it’s in the news it must be true, right? I’ve noticed the *attitude* of other drivers in traffic around here. Merging into the next lane is akin to cutting in front at the lunch line, DON'T! Be careful with your cart at the grocery store in the after-work rush; don’t block overstressed parents who are trying to pick up supper while dealing with tired children. We’re a bunch of Grumpy Gus-es. Or maybe not.

Maybe the survey was too limited. Maybe they only asked people who have a one hour commute. There’s one group I know they certainly missed…. The folks at the quick stop where I buy my morning coffee have been wearing silly holiday hats lately; from antler headbands to Cat-in-the-Hat top hats. They post a daily trivia qustion. They’re always happy and create a bright spot at the beginning of the day. When I walk in there I want to put on my red clown nose and play along! They don’t earn the big bucks but they choose to have a bright outlook. It’s a reminder that we don’t HAVE to be miserable. Sure, stuff happens, but deal with it and get over it. Don’t let it dim your outlook. We each choose how happy we want to be.

I hope you choose to have a very Happy Day!

Note: the research for this list consisted of (1) asking participants to rate their level of well-being and (2) comparing factors such as weather, income, and housing prices for each state. It just doesn't sound as if it was a broad enough study to be valid. Hmmm, I wasn't surveyed on this, were you?

Snow





The worst of the storm missed this area but we have enough snow to last until Christmas! I stuck my yardstick in the snow just beyond my deck to find approximately 9 inches of white stuff. The air is so dry around here that much of the snowflakes were melting before they reached us and the ones that did are light and fluffy. Further south into New York and New Jersey, and further east to the other end of the state received twice as much.


It's quiet here. Very few folks have even gone outside to clean off their cars. I'll get mine cleared by noon....


MyStory, I hope all is well out your way. I'll bet you've already been out playing in this! :)




Saturday, December 19, 2009

Anticipation

Much, much snow expected tonight. Everyone rushed out this morning to get everything done and the grocery stores were CROWDED just after noon, as I returned home from spending time with my mother. Just as most other folks in the tri-state area, I'm prepared (and content) to stay home tonight and tomorrow and watch the beautiful snow fall.

Hoping you are all having a peaceful weekend!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas memories

Welcome to this years' Bloggers' Christmas Party! Take a comfortable seat and visit with us. This is my "party" post about my earlier Christmas memories:







When I was young our family’s tradition was to get our Christmas tree very late in the season. Some years it arrived at the last moment! Because our house did not have central heating, we were able to keep it deep into January, needles still holding tight and soaking up water. Although one year it went out shortly after the celebrations. Soon after it had been set up in the living room, we noticed an objectionable odor. It seems that the dogs near the Christmas tree lot must have “marked” the trees!


Christmas Eve, even in a semi-Italian household, means food and family, not necessarily in that order. December 24th used to be a day of abstaining from eating meat, as decreed by the Roman Catholic church, so Christmas Eve dinner was a big celebration consisting of many courses of pasta and fish. (See the meal of the seven fishes). Before food processors came along, walnuts would be finely chopped by hand to mix into a pasta topping as a meat substitute. One of my favorite dishes was batter-fried cauliflour, hot from the oil. When I was about 11 or 12 we started attending midnight mass. Even though it was a long evening, this would have been easier for my mother since she had to start cooking again on Christmas morning!


About a week or two before Christmas, my mother filled large tins and boxes with homemade cookies. She would stay up at night to bake our favorites. She saved some wonderful recipes from McCalls and Womans Day magazines that she would make each year. Along with pressed cookies, my mom also made Kifli and Christmas Cherry Cake. Oh, they were so good!


When I married and started raising a family, I built my own collection of holiday cookie recipes. They had to be different, not be overly complicated, and they must be tasty. I quickly filled large tins and boxes with my selections and my family would make quick work of them!


Now my children are doing the baking. They have carried on some of my recipes and found some of their own. I’ll make an occasional batch, but it’s time to sit back and let them make their own memories.





Please visit Scattering Lupines or Shells and Bells Flowers and Showers for a list of all participating bloggers in this year's Bloggers' Christmas Party! Enjoy!





Thursday, December 17, 2009

The housing market and the result of unwise choices


Deciding to rent out property is not a task that should be entered into without adequate preparation. First and foremost, a potential landlord must be financially sound. It may seem like a terrifically easy way to make money, judging by what is shown on HGTV, but mortgage and property tax payments bearing down on you will precipitate the need to grab the first applicant.

A landlord has (or should have) a vested interest in the community where his property is located. The neighbors of his property will be the neighbors of his renters, so their rights should be taken into consideration.

In cases where a rental property is included in a Home Owners Association, the renters are to be given a copy of the HOA guidelines, which they must follow. Landlords are responsible for forwarding and enforcing the rules.

That being said, the condo above me had been put on the market for approximately 3 months at a price MUCH higher than other comparables in this area. When the price was lowered in October, it was still too high to generate any interest. As a last resort, it was rented and taken off the market.

Last night I had a total of 4 hours sleep, and those were not consecutive hours. It seems that someone upstairs decided it would be a good idea to run a load of laundry after 10 p.m. (Who’d have thought that other residents might be asleep, eh?) And at 1:45 a.m. we have the nightly buzzer to unlock the front door to let the other person in. (Hello? That’s what your key is for!) I have tried ear plugs and melatonin (5 mg!), but noise is noise. I am concerned about the long term effects on my health from lack of sleep and the short term effects of performing my job to the best of my ability.

I spoke to the unit owner last week about the situation, which accomplished little. Today I had to call the head of the Homeowners Association. I need the protection that I pay for in my monthly fees.

It’s only the 17th and already it’s been a long month.

The Better list

It was one of those ‘Aha!’ moments. The light bulb above my head went on, just like it always did above Popeye’s head when he found the solution to saving Olive Oyl. Every year I set goals to reduce spending, eat healthy, and the likes of that. Actually, I have probably destroyed a few trees with all the lists of resolutions I’ve written and rewritten over the years. All those good intentions… Well, I’m still working on my 2010 resolutions so I’ll post those on New Year’s Eve as a farewell-to-my-old-bad-habits, and maybe-if-I-post-this-for-all-the-world-to-see-I’ll-stick-to-it. But today I’m publishing the Better list. These are things I want to do for ME, for fun.

1 – Attend 2 foraging walks with Wildman Steve Brill, one in the spring and one in early summer, when most of the new greens are up. From stories my mother tells about how her mom gathered wild greens, I have always wanted to learn more. What better way than a guided “hands-on” demonstration?

2 – Explore. I apologize right now for the carbon usage, but I love road trips. In 2010 I’m going to try some new areas. I’ve found some info on biking in Pennsylvania that I’d like to check out later this spring. And maybe this summer I’ll scout around the Adirondacks.

3 – Sign up for 2 continuing ed classes for fun. Beginners’ guitar, so that I’ll stick to my practicing, and maybe Beginners Italian.

4 – Dance. There were outside line dancing sessions on Thursday nights at Savin Rock last summer. Hopefully, they will be on again. If not, beginners’ ballroom dancing could be a possibility, but definitely not belly-dancing.

5 – Ride. I’ve wanted to ride in the Tour de Bronx FOR.EVER! This year, I’m on it!

6 – Walk, then run – slowly. I am SO inspired by Catra's blog. She has amazing quotes and she is always so positive. (Take a look at her incredible outlook by reading her post from December 8, 2009.) Not to mention how healthy she is from running and work outs! I’ll never do a 50k, but I can work up to a tour around the state parks. I have no excuse for being a slacker or complainer, considering what some folks have done to improve their lives.

The choices above are easily obtainable without great expense or extra supplies. Bike, check. Car, check. Guitar, check. Sneakers and shorts, check, check. All applicable fees will be budgeted, even if I have to eat PB & J for a month! (Or maybe I can learn to forage enough to cut back on my groceries?)

Disclaimer: This list is at the mercy of its owner. It may (and will) be expanded without notice.

Now tell, what FUN goals have you set for next year?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It's wherever you find it



The holiday spirit is everywhere. When I stopped for a coffee this morning, I spotted holiday honeys Mickey and Minnie spooning in the window of the quickstop.

(I apologize for the blurry photo. This was taken from my cell phone, then enlarged and cropped.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Past Due Tuesday #8 - 4 eyes



Yep, they're real. They fit. But I can't see a thing through them!





However, when I'm due to get new glasses next year.......oooh, YEAH!

Be sure to check out more Past Due Tuesday posts over at Roomies. Join in and spotlight one of your treasures, then link to Roomies to share!

There's gonna be a party!


Scattering Lupines and Yiota are hosting a Christmas Blog Party on this coming Friday! Stop at either blog today to RSVP. No need to get a new outfit for this party! Just wear your best Christmas memories to share.

I'm looking forward to seeing you there!

Monday, December 14, 2009

How do I explain?

First, we need to accept the fact that our lives are controlled by the actions of others. And no matter how well we think we've made our choices, there's always the chance that a wrench will be dropped into the gearbox. Such as this one...

The owners of the condo above mine put theirs on the market and moved. (These are small, one level units, stacked two high.) Priced extremely high for a small condo, there was very little interest. Within three months they decided to remove it from the market and rent it out. How do I very nicely say that it doesn't seem to be working out? The other units are all long-term owner occupied with very good people. But this unit, being directly over mine, affects me and not anyone else.

I have examined my choices and decided that selling my unit would be best, since I planned on moving away sooner or later. After selling, I will rent a very small apartment, and thus be free to relocate when the time is right.

I've set some tenative deadlines; painted by the third of January, clear out by end of January, appliance replacement by beginning of February, minor repairs done by end of February, listed by the first of March. Three months can seem like a long time, but it will be a very busy time.

Actually, I feel as if this has been a message from above that I've become too comfortable. So this is my new beginning. It will be challenging - and exciting. I'm looking forward to a new adventure.

On the town green


If I drive home from work by a slightly different route, I see this beautifully lit gazebo.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Life is what happens...

when you're making other plans. *

In the midst of holiday celebrations and preparing for a year of new beginnings, clearing old slates and tightening unnecessary spending, a curve ball whipped past my ear causing me to spin around, shake the fuzziness out of my noggin and realize that I will be making some moves sooner than I had expected.

I will be painting over much of the next three weekends, taking time for celebrating of course. But the condo will be painted before a consultation with my real estate broker, whom I have already contacted. In the next two months I will be replacing all existing appliances, which have been here since the seventies. Yes, I have an almond kitchen.

Before the condo is put on the market most of my possessions will be moved to a storage unit. Right now I am SO glad I decided to have a clear out this past summer. I have less to sort through in January.

Hopefully, when the time is right, my broker will have leads on reasonable rentals in the commutable area for my job. As small as possible so that I can focus on work, family, and goals.

So much to consider, it boggles my mind.

It's been raining all afternoon. Started lightly, now it's steady. The temperatures are on that freezing edge now and will be dropping tonight. But no snow.


* saying that I found on a tea bag tag many years ago.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Past Due Tuesday #7 - topper

About a month ago I found this little sweetheart at a Goodwill store, preserved by a former owner in layers of plastic wrap. I didn't have much hope for her and put her in the coat closet. Finding her this evening was like getting a holiday present for myself.





She has a sweet little expression and is in very good shape. The star behind her is a very heavy duty foil, or even lightweight aluminum. Whatever the metal, the edges would easily cut a finger so it's best to be kept out of reach of childrens hands.





She was made by Mirostar Products, Inc. in Paterson, N.J. many years ago. I'm not sure they are still around. (I couldn't find them using Anywho.com.) But the special part is the price sticker on the back of the package. She was purchased at a W. T. Grant Company store for $1.59. We had a Grants and a Woolworths in our town many years ago. Grants left and Woolworths grew. (I eventually worked there in high school.) Seeing that price sticker brought back the memory of creaky wooden floors and all sorts of plain boxes, and clerks who could find anything you needed in those boxes marked only with cryptic numbers written in pencil on a corner.





Yes, Underwriters Laboratories would be very pleased to know that she still works, the wires are in good condition and the light is bright. But I don't think I'll tempt fate. She will set in a very good place, with her bright eyes.





Be sure to check out more Past Due Tuesday posts over at Roomies. Join in and spotlight one of your treasures, then link to Roomies to share!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Friday, December 4, 2009

Wind!

There were some incredible wind gusts last weekend in northern New England. I woke a few times Friday night to hear the wind blowing past the corner of the barn. Luckily, being late fall, there were only a few things left outside that could be blown around and nothing was damaged.


On Saturday I took a short drive into town and stopped along the way to visit a few old spots where I knew I could get a good photo, quickly finding that holding a camera still in the 40+ mph windgusts was next to impossible. I lost quite a few shots that I wanted because my hands were pushed while snapping the button. I tried taking some from inside the car, ending up with shots of the side view mirror :( My last resort was to find a solid object, like a park bench, to steady the camera during the shot as I did in this one.





The wind, and wind power, has always interested me. I cannot understand why something so simple and useful in weaning our dependence on foreign oil should be priced out of the reach of the average citizen. While living in Vermont for over two decades I saw the potential for semi self-sufficiency, especially in the outlying areas. But those are exactly the areas where homeowners could not afford the several thousand dollars to install a turbine. Government grants have helped some homeowners, but not many. The few that have sprouted up around the state are more of a novelty. This one has been around for a few years. I was surprised that this photo came out clearly showing the blades since it was spinning away quite nicely in the wind.







The one photo I wanted to post was out of range of my Sony Cyber-shot. Looking across the Lake at the Adirondacks I saw the most amazing sight - an actual wind farm! There were over a dozen towers that I could faintly see, and in this wind they must have been producing very nicely. This is the only shot that came out steady, and I apologize for not being able to clearly show the towers. (They are the faint white lines on the horizon) My surprise is finding this on the New York side of the Lake. Vermont has been discussing (disputing) the installation of wind farms on the mountain ridges for years, with part of the opposition that they would destroy the view. Looking over at New York, I thought the view was lovely. And hopeful.




Prices on alternative energies need to be competitive with our standard suppliers. The cost of installation and maintenance of solar panels and wind equipment (batteries, etc) needs to rival the lifetime monthly charges from our electric suppliers who may run on coal or foreign oil. Our monthly bills grow each year, with added charges that are cryptic in their explanations.

Home builders in my area are still building McMansions, using extra insulation and triple paned windows as selling points for "energy efficiency". The circuit breakers are then overworked with multiple televisions, computerized appliances, and sensors for everything. Can we not remember to turn off a light switch? A little effort on our part, with a little help from Uncle Sam, can it hurt?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Planning

This time of year while everyone is planning their festivities and checking off gift lists, I usually try to project into the next year, imagining goals and budgets. My history is one where I start off well and lose steam by the end of February, try to patch things together again in April and finally accept compromise by mid-May. And so, living up to tradition, I will sit this weekend with paper, pencil, and excel spreadsheet.

My longing for a more meaningful life lived more closely to the Earth, pulls at me with every passing year. Whether it is the desire to ease towards retirement, or that of trying to find the life I once knew where I could take care of myself in terms of food and shelter on less income than I have now, I know there is a better life for me. In my daydreams I have a huge garden, a root cellar, and a pantry lined jars of canned sauces, jams, and greenbeans. And yes, in my dream life I have soft grey hair. The natural highlights have already started there now.

My inability to project what I will need and how to get there is where my planning falls short. I felt much better about it before the recession, when retirement funds were growing.

I may need to sharpen a few more pencils….

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

12 Days


Last year I stumbled upon an interesting blog that I still check on, one that has consistently made me think. Fr Peter Doodes has an admirable history, and is a clear thinker. I like his outlook on our world’s issues.

I saved this link to one of his posts. I had never before heard the explanation that he outlined, and I never want to forget it.

http://environmentalideas.blogspot.com/2008/12/carol-twelve-days-of-christmas-it.html

Past Due Tuesday #6 - borrowed

Instead of showing off something that I own for Past Due Tuesday, I'd like to lead everyone over to an interesting article I found today. It's about author Cormac McCarthy ("No Country For Old Men", "The Road") who has used one of these while writing his books:



The one he owns needed to be replaced after about 50 years of use. And YES!, he is replacing it with another manual typewriter! I won't reveal any more, please read the article either here or here.


Be sure to check out more
Past Due Tuesday posts over at Roomies. Join in and spotlight one of your treasures, then link to Roomies to share the fun!


* * * * I'll submit a regular "Past Due Tuesday" post next week. * * * *
I couldn't resist this great story!

And miles to go before I sleep

It was a whirlwind of a holiday spanning 700+ miles, 2 turkey dinners, fooseball, several pots of coffee, and a woodstove. After having Thanksgiving dinner with family here, I drove north on Friday, leaving before dawn. I skipped through light rainshowers and arrived in northern VT long before noon. While in town I stopped in some of my favorite consignment clothing shops and found three separates to combine into the perfect outfit for the company Christmas party. And at a total of only $12, there will be no credit payments hanging over my holiday!


At a local cheese store I bought a chunk of Grafton cheddar, which is probably my favorite - very sharp, with character. I also picked up a summer sausage from Vermont Smoke and Cure; a small company which uses meat that is local to them. It turned out to be quite good so it's on my list for my next trip.



During this time of year every weekend is filled with church holiday and craft fairs, so I stopped at one and enjoyed browsing and chatting with the crafters. I picked up a container of delicious homemade spritz cookies, and wished I had purchased a second batch. With only one quick stop at a "regular" store, I was able to avoid the holiday shopping crowds. Once again I realized how good "country" life can be.

We worked outside for a while, and put up decorations for the holidays - something I can't do at my condo. The greens in this wreath were cut from trees on the property, and my grandchildren helped assemble it. Soon enough they will be able to assemble on their own and I'll sit back to watch!







Along with getting away from the city crowds I spent time with family, which was the best part of the trip. I don't expect to be travelling up that way for a while, so I took a lot of photos. I can be there one way or another....