Monthly Archives: June 2015

Lunch with the Jericho Women

When I moved north there were lots of unexpected benefits. I mean unexpected. One of those was reconnecting with high school friends and I’ve given this a lot of thought. Unlike some people, I did not keep in touch with anyone from high school once I graduated from college. We were a small high school class — around 100 — in a New York City suburb that was developed in the mid- to late-1950s to accommodate the American dream of children of immigrants. Developments of split level and ranch homes were springing up over farmland providing more room and a lifestyle that our parents worked hard to attain. jerichohomeI can remember going to model homes with my parents as they looked at homes that all looked alike to me but in different locations on Long Island. Having settled on Jericho, I finished junior high school and moved on to the brand new high school. jerichohs

This is part of the history I share with my high school friends, so when we met recently for lunch in New York City, we settled easily into conversation about when we moved to Jericho, housing values now and then, people we were curious about, and our lives now. It occurred to me that I was sitting with seven women who had interesting careers, experiences, and whose lives were like mine and not like mine. thegirls Our small group was animated and a bit loud I think but we had such a lovely time laughing, remembering, and for me, realizing how much we still had in common. That said, some of the women kept in touch over the years (I’ve already admitted on this blog how many yeara so I don’t feel compelled to do so again!) and knew a lot about one another and about others from our class. In that respect I was a bit of an outsider I felt. But…on the other hand, we were so comfortable with one another and the shared memories reminded me of what a strong connection we had. I think it’s because of our shared history and shared parental expectations — it would have been unusual for one of our graduating class to not attend college.

When I try to parse this out, I say to myself that I left Jericho after college, but I didn’t. I moved home for a brief time after getting my first teaching job. Then made the move into the city and lived there until late 1973. So, there is no reason why I didn’t keep in touch when others did. It’s not important now because we have reconnected. Jean and I discussed the benefits and disadvantages of being on our own. Phyllis and I talked about caring for aging parents, collecting, and family. Corinne, our real estate expert, talked about how she puts up a morning update on Facebook EVERY morning among other things. We all had a chance to visit with one another and learn things about lives past and present. I think I smiled all the way home reflecting on the power of a shared history and shared memories. Hopefully we will get together again soon. As more of us retire, maybe our group will grow. I feel so lucky to have rediscovered these amazing women and to count them as my friends.

Cooking for One

At the risk of being maudlin, I remember soon after Adrian died that I said, “I’ll never cook again.” It was totally irrational of course and why that popped into my mind at such a time I cannot tell you except that food and cooking obviously is a big part of my life and routine. As I look back on that thought and, yes, I did say it out loud, it explains a lot. I watch people in the grocery store buying frozen dinners and prepared foods which are just awful for you health-wise. My mother did that after my father died and talked about the different brands of pot pies and other such dinners. At the time I thought, at least she’s eating! For me, eating is not the problem. Not one bit. It’s eating healthy.

It is nothing new that grocery stores package things in larger quantities than what I typically need. That is very frustrating. Of course, you are thinking, why doesn’t she just ask them to break up a package? Not as easy as it sounds and then there’s the thought, “Oh, well, I’ll freeze…,” whatever it is I’ve purchased. Once the food is home and the shopping part is done complete with the very obvious bunch of things that are for one person, the challenge is to provide freshly prepared food that isn’t the same every week. It’s difficult to make interesting food for one. Freeze it, you say. My cousin, Jill, can make something (always delicious!) and eat it during the week ahead. I, on the other hand, do not like leftovers or reheated food. That presents problem #3 with #1 being the shopping and #2 being coming up with meals that are interesting.

If there is anyone out there that is single and trying to be frugal, here are a couple of things that work for me although they do get boring after awhile. First, I bake chicken (same goes for salmon which you can buy individually wrapped like Full Circle) and use it three different ways. chicken Once with steamed or roasted veggies and usually brown rice. Excuse the sidebar here — the brown rice presents yet another problem because my favorite recipe, given to me years ago by Michael, makes a lot so using it in a second or third meal is an option. OK, back to the chicken. Then, cobb salad and finally a noodle bowl. Noodle bowls are a great repository for leftover spinach, broccoli, carrots, meat, fish, almost anything you can think of. Pattis-Noodle-Bowl And…every time I visit Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, I buy soba noodles or udon noodles for this purpose.

While this was not meant to be a tutorial on how to use chicken a million different ways — you already know that — cooking for one person is something I think about a lot. Sometimes I sit down to a beautiful dinner, a glass of wine, and I feel very glad that I went to the trouble. Other times it’s a bit sad to not be sharing it. And, still other times, a glass of wine and cheese and crackers will be good enough for dinner. Or, a frozen pizza (I am learning which ones actually taste of something other than cardboard). Take a look next time you go to the store — not at the prepared food but at ingredients you would use to make a nice dinner — see how they are packaged and imagine how you would cook for one. [Disclaimer: This blog is not directed at my cousin, Jill, who has cooking and healthy eating for one down to a science.] This is meant to provide insight into living alone and trying to stay healthy. If I am being really honest, I’ll admit that I could live on chocolate and pasta! Cobb salad for dinner tonight. Now how can I make half a loaf of bread in my breadmaker?

Victory in Traffic Court

Delaware River Bridge, Matamoras, Pa. and Port Jervis, N. Y. In April, for those of you who have been keeping track, I received a ticket for entering a pedestrian crossing while people were in it. I had just crossed over the bridge from Port Jervis, NY, to Matamaros, PA, having dropped Michael at the Port Jervis train station. 300px-Port_Jervis_train_station I hadn’t gone very far when I was pulled over for driving through a crosswalk that had people entering it. The trooper was quite helpful telling me to fight the ticket, agreeing that a truck had blocked the crossing, and also agreeing that I had been driving very slowly having just exited the bridge over the Delaware. This morning was my hearing to argue the summons — after all, it carried 3 points on my license, would have caused my insurance to increase, and had a $155.00 fine (which I paid as “collateral” in case I didn’t show up for the hearing). The Magisterial District Court is not easy to find since there is no sign on the outside. If you didn’t know that it was a white house with green shutters behind the old jail, you’d never find it. oldjail This is a picture of the old jail since I didn’t take one of the courthouse — there is a new courthouse for bigger things I guess. I parked outside the jail, called, was told where to go (after the receptionist laughed a lot) and walked through the parking lot, not very far. I gather that I’m not the first person to wonder where the court was.

Upon entering the house, there were many signs stating, in all caps, “Absoultely No Cell Phones in This Court. Magisterial District Judge Deborah P. Fischer.” I fixated immediately on the misspelling since there were no fewer than 4 of these signs. That might not sound like many, but it was a VERY small room. There were 10 people there and not enough chairs. It was totally quiet until one woman started asking people why they were there. Most of the people sitting there (once you signed in like at the dentist’s office) were from New York and began talking about the Pennsylvania conspiracy to cite out-of-staters for driving into pedestrian crossings. It turns out that everyone there had been ticketed for the same thing on the same day. dir_map To put this in context, Matamaros is just over the Delaware from New York into Pennsylvania (it has no fewer than seven discount cigarette shops not to mention fireworks stores which are illegal in New York). I live about 20 miles just east of there, 12 miles east of Milford.

The conspiracy theory discussion continued and all I wanted to do was have my name called, go into the little courtroom, and get out. People came and went from the courtroom and finally the officer who ticketed me opened the door and called my name. Judge Fischer was very pleasant, asked me how I was doing today, made a bit of small talk, and then the officer read out the story of my misdeed, recommended it be downgraded to a parking ticket, and told the judge that I had been very nice and cooperative when pulled over. She then said, “OK, no points on your license, no increase in insurance, fee of $50, and you will be refunded the rest of the money you already paid. You’re from Pennsylvania, right?” That was it. We then discussed the risk of crossing the road in Matamaros and Milford, the judge saying she had almost been run down by a school bus recently and the trooper saying he and his wife were nearly run down by the Milford Chief of Police who didn’t stop. I didn’t need to say a word.

Just before I walked out of the room I wanted to mention the misspelling. How did the judge not notice it? Didn’t anyone care? Then I decided to walk out as quickly as I could and be happy that it all turned out in my favor.

Eclectic Shopping

Can shopping be eclectic? I’m not sure this is the correct word but it is difficult to describe the kind of shopping day I had yesterday. I have known Diane since we bought this house in 2008. She has helped me in numerous ways and we often talk about garage sales, old things, new things, and unusual things. Almost weekly Diane has said that we should go to some of her favorite “antique” places and so finally we did on Friday — and then some! Now the word antique is in quotes because it is used very loosely here.

The first stop of the day was at Fields, an antique (read junk) store not too far from Lords Valley on secondary roads that I was not familiar with. Beautiful country and I wondered how people find this place. However, it was clear from the number of people there that this is only a problem for me! I happily purchased a small mahogany chair for Rachel’s new table and we moved on, Diane reminding me that we had a lot of stops to make! I spent my day happily as the passenger, learning about new places in the area and trying to maintain a sense of where I was. Onward!

Our second stop was an architectural salvage place in Scranton. archsal2 Scranton is about 35 miles west of Lords Valley and it was a challenge finding the entrance to the Olde Things salvage warehouse. It is difficult to describe a place of such scale. It is massive and the amount of pieces small, large, and enormous, is difficult to describe. Inside and out floor to ceiling in the huge warehouse there were items old and new taken from homes and public buildings being demolished. archsal1

Prices were commensurate with the story that went with each piece. When I asked the owner about a pair of concrete decorations he said they typically would be about $45, but because they were from the Philadelphia Convention Center built in the 1800s and the provenance was clear, they were $325 each. Hmmmm. I think he saw us as easy targets with deep pockets looking for items with a story. intsalvage

There were walls of pedestal sinks, chairs hanging from the ceiling, light fixtures old and new, gates, clawfoot bathtubs, claw feet alone, bits and pieces that I could only guess at. We left after climbing among the treasures.

After Scranton, we moved on to Dickson City (not far from Scranton) to Wegman’s which is a Whole Foods on steroids. Then to Sam’s for a few things that Diane needed desperately!! The stop for water turned into much much more, but isn’t that always the way with Sam’s or Costco? Then we restarted our antiquing and headed back east to Honesdale which is about 20 miles east of Lord’s Valley. We sure were covering a lot of miles. To the Alpine (a kitschy German restaurant and shop) then to another antique shop. Diane knows all the proprietors on a first name basis so my quest for chairs was an easy one. One more stop at a shop between Honesdale and Hawley. We were now heading back towards Lords Valley and home. The first thing I saw was several chairs. I had never seen anything like them and so of course purchased two for Rachel. I include a photo here because before the spoiler at the end of this paragraph, guess why the chairs have little shelves attached to the back. chairs Chris, the owner, had just purchased an entire church in Honesdale and found 60 of these in the basement. They were used for church services and the shelves on the back were to hold the prayer books for the person behind! What a find.

I think you can see now why I called this an eclectic shopping day. It was all over the place from antiques, to junk, to food for later, to German potato salad. I have not calculated how many miles Diane drove yesterday but it was a lot. Hot, sweaty, and very satisfied with ourselves, we headed home and unloaded. I cannot wait to drive into Brooklyn next week with the three chairs I found. I’m just thankful I didn’t buy more stuff and think I exhibited a great deal of self-control!!

Chipmunk Wars

Tamias striatus Each morning Sydney and I take a walk usually the same route to the corner and back (about a half mile). I know the neighbors in the three houses just beyond mine and so often wave or say good morning sometimes even stopping for a chat. On Friday, I passed my neighbor Warren, a motorcycle enthusiast and nice guy. His wife often sits on their front deck drinking her morning coffee and enjoying her morning cigarette. It’s a funny thing passing people like this — do they want to say hello? Do they want to be interrupted from their routine? Should I wave or will it look like I’m being nosy and watching them from the street? Important questions all. On this morning, however, Warren stopped me to discuss the “chipmunk problem.”

When I said I didn’t know there was a problem, he asked me, “Don’t you have chipmunks?” “Of course,” I answered, “doesn’t everyone?” It must be stated here that I’m certain there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of chipmunks in the woods here. While they are very cute in a Chip ‘n Dale kind of way, they are noisy and are so small that they can get into all sorts of cracks and crevices. Chipmunks make noise that is disproportionate to their size and can wake you from a sound sleep outside the bedroom window. Noisier than the turkeys really. That said, I have no issue with the little rodents. I asked Warren if chipmunks were responsible for the holes in the yard and was happy to solve that little mystery — they are little diggers as well as living under and among the rocks in my yard. Chipmunk_emerging_from_hole Then the conversation took a bit of an odd turn. Warren told me that chipmunks had done a great deal of damage to his house — getting into his den, eating away at the wood around the house, even eating away at his driveway. I wasn’t really alarmed — more interested. Then he told me of his plan to rid his property of chipmunks.

“I’d shoot them if it wasn’t illegal,” he stated. I said I thought that one would have to be a very good shot since they are so tiny and very very fast. “I am a good shot, but I trap them and then drive them to another location a few miles away.” He showed me his trap and told me that amazon has a trap that can hold up to 20 chipmunks!! I tried to picture myself trapping 20 chipmunks and driving them somewhere but decided that wasn’t for me and, besides, I really don’t have a problem (knocking wood here!). The idea of 20 chipmunks making a difference to the population in the woods seems a bit ridiculous to me. And, what prevents more chipmunks from populating the area from which their family and friends have been removed? If those specific chipmunks don’t come back won’t others? The whole thing seemed pretty ridiculous to me but we had a very serious conversation which ended with Warren telling me he was going out of town for a week but when he got back the “battle will begin!” Ah, the joys of country living. I hope I don’t live to eat my words and must admit I did check the screen over the dryer vent and make sure my car doors are always closed (someone told me that they once got into her car and did a lot of damage). Vico 486 warm up non-literal shootI also am more careful about leaving doors open when letting Sydney out since they are particularly enamored with the drainpipes next to the house. So to my southern friends, I say, yes chipmunks are very cute but be careful what you wish for!