Monthly Archives: May 2013

Hard to Believe…

Today marks exactly one year since the movers arrived at 124 Longridge Drive. Rachel and I drove out of Tallahassee the day after Memorial Day after finishing packing up 37 years worth of memories at 1207 Walton Drive. It’s been an eventful year full of surprises (good and bad), a lot of introspection, and wayfinding! When the moving truck had to back down the driveway in drive, Rachel and I closed our eyes and hoped for the best. Within 2 hours everything was in the house and boxes were everywhere. This in spite of the fact that I gave away so many things; family things to my cousin, Jill; household items to a variety of friends and co-workers; and cars full of all sorts of things to Goodwill. Of course, now that I’ve lived in the house for a year there are some regrets about things I should have taken with me, but that’s another story! In my wish for a fresh start, I may have gone a bit too far but the fact that there is no turning back is also somewhat liberating!

What have I learned in these 365 days? More than I could ever articulate here I’m afraid but I will share a few of the things that come to mind while reviewing my new strange world.
1. Keeping in touch with family and friends is the most important thing to maintain sanity.
2. Being close to children is a gift beyond description.
3. A city girl CAN learn how to survive in the country (albeit only less than 2 hours to New York City!).
4. You CAN go home again even if it’s in a bit of a different way.
5. Most critters will walk, run or fly away as you approach them. This is a very important thing to know when walking your dog in this area although I’m still very respectful of the bears!
6. Northern winters are a force to be reckoned with as is my driveway! There are strategies one can develop for survival — hiring a good snow plowing and stair shoveling service, getting the car checked out before the first snow, ordering and having delivered a large amount of firewood early, putting aside money in the budget for very large amounts of ice melt, not locking the gate because it will freeze.
7. Few people go out at night in the mountains during the winter, so restaurants that are even open in winter close VERY early. So, get in a supply of good books, take advantage of On Demand movies, and watch a lot of bad tv!
8. Spring comes late but quickly. The snow is melted and all of a sudden it’s green and lush. Local nurseries that have been all but closed down have beautiful locally grown plants of all kinds and the driveway is again usable which makes life a lot easier.
9. Home is not where you live but how you live — this has been a hard lesson and one that I am still working on.
10. I am a very lucky woman. Reconnecting with high school friends has been a very welcome surprise, having family close by means I can see them often, anticipating being a grandmother is much more fun when I don’t have to think about transportation, and visiting good friends only takes some driving.

I think a lot about these things and am feeling a bit nostalgic (is that the right word?) about the past year. A few bumps in the road but altogether it amazes me that even the difficult tasks had positive outcomes. Some of my friends and acquaintances asked what I’d do with myself in retirement. Just managing the first year of so many changes has been enough for me!

More on Technology

On a dreary morning, I decided to go into the diner before shopping mostly because I knew that there would be someone there to talk to or that would say hello and start my day on a positive note! Besides, it’s on the way to Price Chopper. It’s no Publix, but it is a big store with fabulous produce. I was surprised to see Greg sitting with Judy trying to convince her to look at phones in a new way and upgrade to a smartphone or IPhone. Considering my comments the other day about the lack of technological know-how, I started thinking about some comments from friends and relatives on this subject. Three specific things happened this morning leading me to analyze this small amount of data on use of technology!

First, the sight of Greg showing Judy how to pinch a photo that he had taken to make it bigger. I am fortunate to have family that is beyond the typical as far as understanding all sorts of technological wonders — not just computers or IPhones, but IPads, website development, video editing, creation of all things using computers, and programming. So, I am a bit smug although my children will chuckle when they read this because as far as they are concerned I am pretty much a dinosaur. Or at least a mastodon!

Second, my sister-in-law, Jill, sent me a very long email that included her comments about people in her area and in her immediate circle of friends and acquaintances who would not even consider having a computer, much less communicating via computer. Her contention is that, once we retire, we lose the something that encourages us to learn new skills but I hope that’s not true. However, according to my data so far it’s looking grim and looking like she might be on to something. Jill was, of course, responding to my blog not just sending random thoughts on use of technology. I must say that she texts regularly with her daughter overseas and uses email every day and, given the limitations of her service provider in Australia, it is pretty amazing.

Third, in trying to complete my task of sending an e-vite for our high school reunion, I am updating the spreadsheet and receiving information by email that will help me create the invitation to be sent to my graduating class (year intentional omitted). This morning, Wendy emailed that she spoke with one of our classmates who said she doesn’t have email and couldn’t we please mail printed invitations! I am always stunned when I hear that people do not have email accounts since it is such an important part of my life. Instead of wondering and worrying how I will create an electronic invitation, I am not stressing over how to mail them out and who to mail them to. Do we mail to only those for whom we do not have email addresses? What about the people with only phone numbers and who didn’t return calls? Do we mail print invitations and the email one? Why does it seem like it’s more complicated than it should be?!

And last, Sharon commented on my blog that she thinks there is something about our work that provided the vehicle through which we learned how to communicate long distance and how to use technology to make our jobs easier (at least that’s how I interpreted her comments). But, and this is an important but, she also said that the idea of being technology free is somehow appealing and maybe she would be one of those people I mentioned who found the idea of having a computer totally foreign. I doubt it. I think once we are hooked on technology we are bound to it forever!

All of these things taken together spurred me to my computer to blog. I admit that I sleep with my IPhone and IPad on the nightstand; that I updated all of my electronics before I moved because I was worried about being out of touch; and that I am already thinking about my next computer, new IPhone, and next IPad! Before 7:00 AM today I had communicated with two dear friends and by 8:30 AM had heard from Australia. It was a comfort!

Monday Morning at the Diner

After my walk this morning, I decided to drive into Milford to the diner for breakfast. Last Friday I was there for lunch and noticed that the atmosphere was not the same in the afternoon. Different wait staff, different seating, and a different vibe. It was enjoyable nonetheless and it provided the impetus for me to do some serious thinking about the diner and the people who go there. This morning, in spite of the empty stools in this photo, there were the regulars. Judy, owner of a home decor shop in Milford; George, an owner; Greg, Judy’s friend; another George; and the guy with the toupee. Nancy, my waitress was there of course, and a second waitress who is very friendly but I don’t know her name.
counter Judy invited me to join her, which seemed to create a bit of confusion for others because there is always someone sitting at her booth usually for short periods of time. It was nice to have the company and our conversation led me to consider the way I assume that everyone I meet understands technology, social media, and the varied way websites are used for personal and business purposes. So, I left my booth empty (the second placemat is subtly removed by Freddie when I walk in the door). booth

As I’ve mentioned before, business is off in Milford. The town has a number eclectic shops from Fretta’s Italian Deli, a sweet shop, the patisserie, and a few restaurants, to the pottery at Blue Stone Studio, the used bookstore, and several specialty shops and photo galleries. One of these shops is Judy’s, with a mix of antiques and collectibles and small decorator items for the home. It is thoughtfully laid out and very inviting. Business, however, is not what it used to be and, according to Judy, this is because of the recession. When I mentioned the possible creation of a website to better market her shop and items in it, we discussed how Upriver Home has an active web-based business in addition to the store in Milford. As we talked I realized that my assumption that everyone understands how computers work, how the internet can be used (ironic — coming from me with a limited understanding of all this!), is a false assumption. Some people I meet at the diner and elsewhere do not own computers and use cell phones only for phone calls. If one doesn’t own a computer at all then having a website, especially one through which you sell merchandise, probably won’t work! It never ceases to surprise me that the concept of blogging is one that is foreign to people, not to mention the idea of apps that provide access to all sorts of information. Forget Facebook and email altogether.

What this brings to mind is the fact that talking face to face is a most effective means of communicating with a limited number of people. That’s why the diner is such a great place to pick up the local gossip, opinions on what’s going on in the world (although since the election political commentary has been sparse), what everyone is doing on a particular day. “What are you doing today? Working? Where?” I think but am not entirely sure that people who come to the diner leave with a sense of belonging because conversation is short but there are people there who care what you are doing that day. As I left and paid my bill, George asked me if I would be in tomorrow because he was going home and he wanted to make sure Judy had company. Not sure I’ll drive in again tomorrow, but I liked the idea that it might make a difference.

Ready to Garden

As soon as it looked like spring here, I decided to start on my new hobby — gardening. I must make it clear that when I say “gardening,” I mean planting stuff in pots — at least to start. And, it also implies that I will actually pay attention to my plants, water them occasionally, and be a good caretaker. Before I even started, however, I had to get water to the back of the house as well as the front. It was a feat of engineering that I attached a Y connector and a hundred feet of hose to it, threaded it through the fence, and attached a watering wand. My second job was to figure out if it was warm enough to start planting. I am now located in Zone 5b and am at the end of the possibly frost continuum, so it should be safe to plant. I had quite a scare with my aloe plant, though, and so am a bit concerned with my ability to keep things alive. But, after bringing the aloe back onto the porch, it went from brown to yellow to green again and thus, with this in mind, I went to Lowe’s Garden Center to begin my planting adventure.

The helpful garden attendant provided me with a flatbed cart that I had absolutely no hope of pushing through the garden center so it ended up standing in one place while I went from table to table loading the cart with potting soil, hanging plants for under the deck, and several annuals. I asked, “Where are the petunias?” My helpful friend responded, “What’s a petunia?” It was immediately clear that I would get absolutely no help and so I maneuvered through the checkout and the same person helped me unload the cart into the back of my car. No plastic or offer of anything to protect the car (I am now remembering fondly many trips to Tallahassee Nursery) and he said, “Going to do some planting?” I wanted badly to say, “No,” and finish with a sarcastic remark but I held back, got in my car, arrived home, and planted the window boxes and deck rail planters.
windowboxesdeckrail
It may not look like much to you, but it is certainly more cheerful than it was so I was very pleased with my progress.

My children gave me a large planter for Mother’s Day and so we decided that would be my kitchen herb garden. Having crossed Lowe’s off my gardening list, this morning I went to The Brick House, a local nursery and only 6 miles from here as opposed to about 20 to Lowe’s. Not only did I get lots of herbs and potting soil for the same price or less than Lowe’s, but I got all the advice I could handle. The person who helped me was very knowledgeable and even helped with what to put in the upside down pots (begonias). After recommending separate pots for basil and rosemary, I purchased two planters that are made from recycled material and can stay out all winter (always thinking ahead). Pleased with my purchases, I headed home, carried everything up the stairs, and am ready to go. emptyplanter

To those of you who are master gardeners, have a natural talent for growing things, or have English style gardens in the backyard, I say “Great!” I know my limitations and know what I can handle, so am proud of this as a good start. Besides, I do not have soil enough to garden in the yard, so it would be quite an investment just to plant a small area. Wish me luck. I’m headed to the deck to get my herbs going. I think I’ll make pesto later!

The Upper West Side

As I drove into the city on Sunday, I exited the Henry Hudson Parkway at 95th Street, and thought how much I love the Upper West Side of Manhattan. w95st2 I took a photo as I was stopped at a red light at 95th Street and West End Avenue and thought how different this part of Manhattan is from other neighborhoods. The Upper West Side (or UWS as it is known in real estate) has always been family friendly and one that has attracted young urban professionals who are well aware of the area’s reputation for home of the intelligentsia. Artists, writers, and those who shape the cultural landscape of New York have claimed the UWS as home. I can remember Dick Cavett, who I thought was the smartest comedian and late-night host ever, talking about his home on the Upper West Side. His wife was a well-known actress and I thought them the epitome of sophistication and witty conversation. When I was stopped again at Amsterdam Avenue and 96th Street, making a turn east so I could get down to Michael’s apartment, I was again struck by the images of just that small stretch of road that I could see out my car window and that you can see here. amsterdamat962 The church, the trees as far north as you can see, the blue sky, and the architecture of the buildings that is true to the development of this area over a very long period of New York’s history.

The Upper West Side is the neighborhood that is between the Hudson River on the west and Central Park on the east. Fifty-eighth street to the south (Columbus Circle) and the northern border is always a matter for argument, depending on where you just rented an apartment. Some say 110th Street but there are areas north that have recently begun to gentrify so the boundary will surely move north. There is a wonderful book, Upper West Side Story by Peter Salwen. I read it years ago and I’m guessing it’s out of print now but it is an interesting history of an area that was home to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Leonard Bernstein and John Lennon to name just a few. Of course there was the Bloomingdale Lunatic Asylum at 116th Street that was placed there originally because it was “so far north that no one would ever go there.” Columbia University is at that site now.

There are many things about the UWS that I like (besides the fact that Michael and Allison live there), not the least of which is the West Side Community Garden that I visited last weekend. It is a peaceful and serene small green space that is well used by area residents, some reading, some just sitting, some tending their garden plots, and others like me walking through admiring the amazing tulips. westsidegarden There’s Zabar’s, Barney Greengrass the Sturgeon King, too many restaurants and deli’s to mention, Citarella and Fairway (which I would drive to just to food shop), and always the chance of seeing a famous person!

I don’t write this as an advertisement for New York City but to share my enthusiasm for the area. It is a comfortable neighborhood that is guarded by Michael and Allison’s cat, Tesla, who sits and watches progress on roof gardens, dog walkers, films that are shot in the area, and people enjoying the beautiful spring weather. Tes Like Tesla, I am determined more than ever to notice the little things that make each city, town, village, or area unique. Fortunately I have the time and a new camera.

Amazing Mother’s Day

I am not sentimental about holidays or birthdays but this Mother’s Day was definitely special. It reenforced my decision to move north and be closer to family. Michael and Allison invited me for brunch at their apartment with Rachel and Dave of course. My trip into the city was a very good one on a beautiful warm sunny day and, even though I left myself 15 minutes to find a parking space, I turned onto West 89th Street and got a space just past their apartment. Whenever I find street parking I am reminded of a terrific Calvin Trillin book Tepper Isn’t Going Out, which is the best send-up on New York parking that I have ever read. I probably should have taken a photo of the parking space!

Michael and Allison together prepared an amazing vegan brunch of salad with kalamata vinaigrette, oatmeal maple scones/muffins (recipe included here), and veggie-filled crepes. Rachel and Dave stopped at the Bagel Pub (not a pub) and brought HUGE bagels, tofu cream cheeses, regular veggie cream cheese and whitefish salad (for me and Dave which was delicious!). mothersdaybrunch This photo was taken while Michael was creating the tastiest crepes ever that were accompanied by a tarragon aioli. All of the recipes came from the vegan Candle 79 cookbook except the scones and it was indeed impressive. The mimosas were wonderful as well and served in Tennessee pewter goblets that made them even more special.

Even better than the food was the chance to sit around the table and talk, something we all rarely get to do. It was relaxed and we caught up on what everyone was doing. Even though we all email and talk often, there is nothing like sitting around with one another and just chatting. Besides, I always learn a lot about healthy eating and making good food choices when spending time with everyone. After sitting for a while (it was a VERY big brunch) we took a walk to look at a few baby things in Rachel and Dave’s car. Walking through the West Side Community Garden I made sure to get some pictures of us and of the gorgeous tulips. The concept of this garden as a lovely and peaceful green space for neighbors is one of the reasons I so love the Upper West Side (my next post). wheresdave Not only are the flowers beautiful, but there is a dedicated space for residents to plant vegetables that is fenced off and well cared for. More on that tomorrow. After transferring some things from Rachel and Dave’s car to mine, I was off again and back home in no time. My only errand for the day was to buy fava beans and, much to my delight and surprise, Allison and Michael had a surfeit of fava beans. Really! I consider myself a very lucky person and thought about what a fantastic afternoon it was as I made the drive home.

Here’s Allison’s scone/muffin (scuffins?) recipe. They were very very good!

Maple-Oat Muffins
Serves 14

2/3 cup cooked oatmeal, cold
Egg replacement equal to 1 egg (I used 1 T. flax meal, mixed with 3 T. warm water. Let sit for 10 minutes.)
2 T canola oil
1/4 maple syrup
3/4 cup soymilk (or any non-dairy milk)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
2 T. sugar
1/2 t. salt

1. Preheat oven to 425F
2. Stir together oatmeal, egg replacement, oil, maple syrup, and non-dairy milk in large bowl until blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Combine flour mixture with wet ingredients, stirring until just mixed.
3. Pour batter into greased or paper-lined muffin tins until 2/3 full. Bake 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

It’s Not Age…It’s Location!

In my quest to try local restaurants in hopes of finding places to take visitors or to frequent when I’m looking for a dinner out, I went with a friend to Kevin’s Hog Heaven for “barbecue.” Notice the quotation marks please. It was unlike any barbecue I had while living in the south for 37 years but I attribute that to being up north. Kevin claims that they cook meat 24/7 and, in fact, has opened a second location. As the “Home of the Fried Oreo,” it is apparently very popular since its opening about a year ago. The restaurant is open 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM, so if we wanted dinner, it had to be very early. To be fair, I was not all that enthusiastic about going in the first place. For those that know me well, you are aware that I don’t like barbecue! Also, I do not care for eating early. So Kevin’s Hog Heaven had two strikes against it before I even left my house at 4:50! When we first made plans to go to Kevin’s, I told my friend, Nancy, that I felt like the people in Miami who rush out to get the early bird specials. She said emphatically, “It’s not age, it’s location.” You know from an earlier post that places here close very early before Memorial Day and after Labor Day.

Hog's Heaven 01

I was used to Sonny’s Barbecue which for me was tolerable and I loved their cole slaw and beans. At Kevin’s, we were served large portions of dry meat. When we asked for sauce, the waitress said, “Sauce?” as if it was a foreign concept, then reappeared with three squirt bottles — hot, hickory, and barbecue. The meat desperately needed something so hot sauce it was. The sides were macaroni and cheese and cole slaw — very small portions. Clearly people go to Kevin’s for the large portions of meat, not for the sides. It is obvious that if a place is only open until 7:00 PM it is not a good bet for dinner. I felt like the waitress couldn’t wait until we left so she could go home. Having dedicated my brisket to Nancy’s dogs, we prepared to leave with the check in hand. When we got to the register, the waitress couldn’t figure out how to break up the ticket even though we were all paying cash! She couldn’t open the register to give change, so it took longer to pay than it did to eat our meals!

Just before we left, Kevin cook/owner came to our table (we were one of three occupied tables) to see how we liked our meal. Beer in hand (oh, how I wish I had one — it’s a bring your own), he told us how he had just opened another location. It is apparently very popular around these parts. For me, it’s another restaurant that I likely will not return to even if it is “The Home of the Fried Oreo.” In fairness to Kevin, my guess is that it does a big breakfast, lunch and take-out business. Maybe living in the south for so long I am used to a different kind of barbecue and that explains my reaction. I definitely should have brought beer and had the fried Oreo!

A Day in The City

My cousin Ed sent a “joke email” that included what happens to you if you choose to retire in New York. One of the items was that you begin to refer to “the city” when going into Manhattan. I have always referred to it this way having grown up in Manhattan and Long Island and can tell you that no one within hundreds of miles has any question about what the reference is! So, after a week in Asheville, one day home, I drove into the city to meet Michael and Allison for lunch and then spend the afternoon shopping with Rachel.

I had a plan and it all seemed so logical and simple. First, I would park where I wanted to end up — somewhere near Macy’s in Herald Square. Then, I would take the D train to Columbus Circle to my dentist appointment, followed by the crosstown bus to meet Michael and Allison, then the M train back to Herald Square. It seemed so brilliant and frugal — only one parking garage to pay for and I already had my email coupon. What I didn’t know is that the traffic patterns anywhere close to 34th Street had changed and you can’t turn north or south. So, I ended up on 32nd looking for my parking garage and unable to turn when I missed it! I stopped at an intersection and asked the policewoman where the next possible turn was and she said “First Avenue!” Anyone who knows the city realizes that this is a long distance from the west side. I eventually turned south, then west, then north, and ended up at a parking garage on 36th and Seventh. By this time, I had to get a cab to make my dentist appointment! I did take the crosstown bus to the east side for lunch and then Allison and I walked together to the M train to Herald Square. The last time I was in the city I noticed all the beautiful tile work in certain subway stations. subwaytilesunionsq.

This image is in Union Square and I took it from the subway car as the doors were closing. The larger tile is a country farmhouse and was just lovely. It reminded me of the many things we miss when hurrying from place to place particularly in big cities.

As Allison and I entered the subway station on Lexington Avenue, we hurried (you must hurry whether you are on a deadline or not) to the platform and Allison said that we should take the escalator because the staircase was very steep. That was an understatement! subwayescalator

I managed to get on the train, get out of the station at Herald Square at the wrong exit of course, walked to Macy’s to meet Rachel and, other than the parking fiasco, all went according to plan. While at Macy’s, we took an escalator to the fifth floor (textiles and restroom that tourists never find!) and remarked that we hoped the store would never take out the old wooden escalators. I remember riding these escalators as a small child with my mother and Aunt Betsy. They are a lovely reminder of a different era that’s for sure. macysescalator The escalator gets more narrow as you go up and you certainly wouldn’t want to be wearing high heels! (While this looks like the escalator to heaven because of the light, it actually was only the fifth floor!)

I enjoy my time in the city for many reasons, most of which include seeing my children and their spouses, but I also am becoming more aware of things that I never had time to appreciate before and I am committed to capturing some of that to share and perhaps elicit some of your memories as well. Come to visit and we’ll go into the city!