Monday, August 31, 2009

Fiddling with the look of the blog and talking furniture

I could not take the pink blog layout any longer. Maybe it has something to do with the wonderful cool nip in our air. Fall doesn't seem to be pink to me, but golden, green, orange, brown! So my blog has returned to its prior dots. Just don't get too used to it. I'm not satisfied with the look; I liked the layout of the pink better. Will have to spend some time getting what suits me. This is just like when I move or rearrange a room and don't like what I've done.

I am proud of me because today I took a big load of old Ideals magazines and more books to the library. Do you remember Ideals? How I loved them, the poetry, the artwork, and the quaint old stories. But again, too many and taking up too much space. I do not look back through them so most are gone now. I don't know if it is even published any more and have not seen it is a long time. I kept several of the Ideals though for a resource or just to enjoy now and then. I pedaled them up town on my way to Curves, in the basket of my trike--it sure was heavy and made for slow going especially up the hill. But I did it! As I pedaled along in 2nd gear, I thought it might be quite a sight if the weight of all the books and items in the basket made me go down the street on the back tires, front one up in the air kind of like ET come home! That didn't happen and when I unloaded at the library it was much easier going!

I am starting to prepare for arrival of our good friends from CA who now live in NC. They are stopping by next week on their way to a reunion in Montana. This means baking and meal planning and cleaning just so. I love company but sometimes woek myself into a tizzy unnecessarily. Unfortunately another friend from CA is in Minneapolis the same weekend for a convention. I still have not figured how to be in 2 places at once so will miss seeing Janie. I'd asked her to make her plans to stay in MN after her convention instead of before but that did not work with her schedule, so we will not likely get together. Or maybe I can get to Minneapolis for a quick lunch with her one day.

Arrival of company means I have earnestly begun my fall cleaning frenzy. Saturday, I started by waxing all the kitchen cabinets. Now all the wood is ready and looks great. Thankfully, I only do this once a year! I love our wooden furniture, floors, woodwork, but I do not like the work=upkeep to maintain it at its best. Ah Martha Stewart only instructs doubt she does the work, why not me! Oh, I have no one to instruct! I minimize or conserve my efforts to an annual event, usually right before holidays start in November. I see the hutch will want unloading and polishing all the inside mirrors and glass shelves. Ahh well I have not done that in a couple years so it is time. But later for that. Jerry does help there by doing the glass--he thinks I cannot do it right and that is just fine with me. So I don't try to do such a good job that it lets him off the hook. In ways he reminds me of my now dead Aunt. She was very particular about how things were done and kept me off limits for certain things--washing windows was one. I made streaks and that was not acceptable. well go ahead, doesn't hurt my feelings!

Our guest bedroom is always ready but I will give it a real polishing too tomorrow. One more antique dresser resides there now from the massive set we brought from PA from my aunt's home. That's it in the photo along with one of the old clocks that Jerry inherited from my aunt. Jerry got those clocks because she remembered that I am not handy and that old watches/clocks don't have a continuous life around me. When I went to PA in 2005 to care for her when she had a cancer operation, she was vehement that I not touch the clocks nor try to wind them. "Just leave them alone, I'll do it when I'm up. You'll overwind them or do something." Well I am not mechanically inclined. So years back she told Jerry to be sure he took the clocks and to keep my fingers away from them. That's right up his alley because he has great admiration for old clocks or clocks anyway.

I look at the wonderful antiques we have and think how life is unfair. These antiques were accustomed to the best of care by dedicated servants in their heydey in the Irwin mansions in PA. Ahh, wouldn't it be grand if I had servants to maintain these as the Irwin family did. No wonder they owned all the exquisite furniture with the curlicue's, and intricacies. I hope my antiques do not look down their noses at me and my meager efforts and recall how things used to be. Furniture may have a soul but good it can't talk to compare! So for me I am thankful for these and keep myself busy with keeping the dust off and using a q-tip occasionally. One room a day, that's all I ask! And sometimes not even that!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Favorite reads from the past

I am earnestly clearing some of my all time favorites from the book shelves which have become toooooo overloaded. September 5 is our library's book sale and I am donating so they can raise funds. These are books I have enjoyed so much that I was sure I had to keep them. But wrong! I never look back and reread them because there are so many books to look ahead to and more all the time. I realize I do not need to maintain such an extensive library as I have for myself. No one ever comes and borrows a book here like they used to in CA. Of course in CA during career days I was around more people. In CA I had an army of reading friends and colleagues who swapped, traded, lent, borrowed books. Not here. So this is another awakening from clearing out my aunt's home in PA, just move it along. I'm a life long book lover so this takes lots of talking to myself, to keep moving these along. Especially paperbacks. I loved reading all these book and unless I wrote something in them, or tagged pages, I will not be quoting from them. I am guilty of buying previously read books at sales and less I do that again, I will list these on my blog so I will know that I've already been there! Most of these I will not forget, but since I have done it before, I'm trying prevention.

"Seabiscuit" by Laura Hillenbrand. Read this before I would allow myself to see the movie. Great story about a great KY Derby winner in the old days of horse racing. This edition has excellent photos, references, anthology and a reader's guide in the back by the author. Our friend/neighbor/sometimes adopted daughter in CA is a jockey/trainer all around horse bum gal. But she doesn't read like her dad did and so sending this to her would not be worthwhile.

"Ahab's Wife, or the Star Gazer" by Sena Jeter Naslund I read this in February 2005 after I really retired. I thought I retired in October 2004 but agreed to return in January. That only convinced me if I had not meant it in October I really meant it now. But onto this book! I read a lot when I worked because I had a long commute into and out of Sacramento daily. While we commuters were quite social there were many times that I just cherished the time retreating into a good book. I found after I retired I was not having the same amount of time to read so had to make time daily, usually end of the day to get my words in! This book about the wife left behind on land while Captain Ahab, of Moby Dick fame is off whaling is one of my all time favorites. Her life story including going to sea disguised as a young boy weaves through Kentucky, Nantucket and beyond. In 117chapters, 666 pages and a layout of illustrations reminiscent of old sketches ,unique to this author, the tale takes many turns. Ahead of her time and yet part of it our story teller keeps going. Some chapters are like short letters, extracts of stories. There are wonderful quotes throughout this book. From it's opening lines"Captain Ahab was neither my first husband not my last....." you know you are in for a good story. NY Times proclaimed it one of the year's five best novels in 2000; the novel received many other accolades.

I am wondering if I can really part with this book, with illustrations. I have the pages of this book tagged with so many great lines; page 609, "don't you love reading? How is that so different from writing?"

Page 297, "Beware the treachery of words, Mrs. Sparrow. They mean one thing to one person and the opposite to another. They are like all conventional land born habits. Words seem to be well-woven baskets ready to hold your meaning, but they betray you with rotted corners and splintered stays."

Page 178, "People cross our paths casually, when trumpets should blare. So it was with my first sighting of the Pequod and the man who would become a husband"

Well I could not part with this book; it is back on the shelf where it will stay!

The following are all authored by Laurie King, introdced to me by a friend years back in CA. Laurie is a CA author who created a wonderful mystery series featuring Mary Russell, an apprentice to Sherlock Holmes who becomes his wife. I loved the Sherlock Holmes mysteries as a teenager so it was delightful to discover this fantasy. What if he had married, who would it be? Laurie King also wrote mysteries about Kate Martineli, a San Francisco police detective. I have passed along some of her books and for some reason kept these which are now going to the library sale. They are al delightful mysteries, no bad language and just good reading. Nothing too deep, but enjoyable.

"A Monstrous Regiment of Women" It's 1921 and Mary Russell, Sherlock Holmes apprentice, inherits a considerable amount. She however prowls nightly through London's darker streets in disguise.
"The Beekeeper's Apprentice" According to King Sherlock kept bees on the moor in his spare time. This book uses that theme to introduce Mary. I loved the line Sherlock speaks to Mary, "Guessing is a weakness brought on by indolence and should never be confused with intuition." Doesn't that sound like Sherlock?
"The Moor" Married to Sherlock, Mary abandons her Oxford studies to assist him in an investigation on Dartmoor. Where there have been sightings of a coach carrying a long dead noblewoman, more intriguing than the phantom hound of the Baskervilles.
"O Jerusalem" takes place near the end of 1918 when Sherlock flees England with Mary to British occupied Palestine with help from his brother, Mycroft. Murders seem unrelated to the increasing tensions among the Jews, Muslims, and Christians, but Sherlock is not so sure. Their investigation leads them through bazaars, hovels, monasteries, and into the ever present mortal danger of an adversary. I remember this one had me on the edge of my seat.
"A Letter of Mary" As I recall, this adventure begins when Mary opens a trunk that mysteriously is delivered to her. A letter within leads to many intriguing events.
"The Game" This may be the last Mary Russel mystery I read in April2006. New Years 1924, finds Mary relaxing with Sherlock when Mycroft visits with news that is intriguing. A package arrives from Kimball O'Hara of Rudyard Kipling's fame. O'Hara is then missing and Mary and Sherlock travel to India to search for him.
"With Child" is a Kate Martinelli mystery. Kate is engaged by a 12 year old Jules to search for a homeless boy, Dio.

"the 5 people you meet in heaven" by Mitch Albom. This title is just like that with small letters. I read this in November 2003 on our return trip to CA from MN. I do not understand how and why this book was so acclaimed. It was decent motor home reading but not something that I recommended. I don't know why it has remained on my shelf but it goes to the library now. One review said this is a a sad book narrated by a sad soul; and in this heaven God and his glory are not the center of attention. It's all about you. Perhaps those who need to feel it is all about them made this book popular. One good quote about love on Page 173 strikes me still today, "Lost love is still love, ... It takes a different form....You can't see their smile or bring them food or tousle their hair or move them around a dance floor. But when those senses weaken, another heightens. Memory. Memory becomes your partner. You nurture it. You hold it. You dance with it....Life has to end, she said, Love doesn't."

"Belong to Me"by Marisa de los Santos. I read this in June 2008 and wrote then that it was a good summer chic read. I have lent it out to several people but it is time to remove it from my permanent shelf. Nice phrases abound in this novel about Cornelia Brown who leaves city life for a laid back suburb after marrying Teo. The suburb is not all that welcoming though to a newcomer. The characters (local desperate housewives) are interesting and there is a unique twist that I did not see coming.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tall weeds and collections

Yesterday was about as good a day as it gets, weather wise and relaxation style. I sprayed my long neglected roses with some fungicide to ward off the black spot attacks that are sure to increase now with our delightful, fall like, cool weather. I also pulled many more tall weeds out of the garden though there are more yet to go. I posted on Facebook how tall the weeds are and if anyone doubts me, check out the photo. They are taller than me. I'm only 5'3" but still, how do weeds materialize from nowhere and thrive in 3 weeks while cultivated plants cannot? We miss our fresh veggies out of the garden this year but are making do with trips to the local farmers markets. I am only pulling weeds with full tennies on in the garden now. Why? Because on Saturday as I was shucking fresh corn for dinner near the garden I witnessed a big grass snake chasing a smallish fat brown rodent, like the critter that invaded our garage. Aagh! I do not like snakes of any kind. I was thankful to be outside the garden fence as this 2 1/2 foot black and white striped snake slithered more like raced s-like after the creature. Just thinking that I could have been in there in the midst of the chase in my sandals made me shiver. So no, sir, from now on full tennies for me. You will be surprised to know I did not scream when I spotted the snake. That surprises myself as I just watched it shuddering.

After my outside work was done and at the protest of my right rear side/cheek seat which attacked me with a sharp pain as if to say, "enough bending!" I came inside to "red up" the sun porch. "Red up" translated for you non-Pennsylvanians is like tidy up, clear up, clean out. I love sitting out on our sun porch room, see the wicker onthe photo, but as we only use it during the warm weather I am way behind on my enjoyment of using it this year. Instead it had been getting regular contributions of things to be stored, packed or just put somewhere out of sight for a bit. In this effort, I reviewed my collection of Martha Stewart magazines and determined that years 2002--2006 had to be contributed to the library bins. Our wonderful little local library has bins where we can contribute our used magazines in the foyer. anyone who wants them then can help themselves, free. It's a great resource for schools who need materials for collages, artwork, as well as for people who just want something to read. I have donated regularly and sometimes I even find something of interest in the bins to pick out and bring home with me! Why I accumulate these magazines I cannot explain. It's with that intention to make, bake, cook, fix, some thing in the magazine. Sometimes I really have used the recipe or idea and then referred back to it. Just not often enough to justify accumulations. So I keep them fully intending to someday get back to that. Soon, they are taking up far too much room. So these went to the library bin today along with a years worth of gardening magazines. Next I need to "red up" the Art/Antique magazines which I also amass.

After clearing through my aunt's house in PA I have vowed to reduce my own collecting habits. We will see how long this lasts. Right now I'm in a simplification mode but as soon as that gremlin, strikes I will have a lot of self talking going on. You know the gremlin that lurks, making you look for something that you have kept for years and just recently tossed and now must have! I have a couple bags and boxes of items set aside for Goodwill or the Church rummage sale.

As usual with my projects one thing leads to another. I found that to store items I need an additional shelf in the side of the cupboard we have on the sun porch. We bought this for the kitchen and I decided I did not like having this moveable island in there. So it resides onthe sun porch and makes a handy bar or serving buffet. On the right is a long tall side where stuff gets piled on top of stuff. So that is keeping Jerry busy today. Otherwise I have gained the solace of the sun porch for morning coffee and evening wine and just general enjoyment looking out over the back yard and flowers. A lovely way to spend time. And today as my right seat cheek still tingles I am taking advantage of that. Another day off, no bike riding or Curves today. I am listening to my body say, "just give it up for another day." Even when I don't go to physically work out I am not sedentary.

This morning I did rose bush patrol and picked up 2 more Japanese beetles. This year those nasties got a strong hold on the gardens. I was gone and could not keep after them. But now that we have been home they are nearly gone again. My method involves scooting them into a jar of water where they swim desperately one on top of the other round and round. Then I set the jar covered in the sun to bake. It takes a day or so to do them in! They are really tough bugs! But I hate them for the destruction they do to the roses. We never had these in CA so this is a new to MN issue for me. I remember my grandma would pick them off and dump them into a can of kerosene and then when grandpap burned the bugs went up in flame. Mine are flushed down the toilet. Oh did I tell you I sometimes use my garden clippers to cut off a leg or so before tossing them into the jar! Who said I don't have a mean streak!

Reading Catch Ups

I am still working through Barbara Bush' Memoir which is nothing short of delightful reading. I've always admired Barbara Bush and this memoir with excerpts from her diary follows her persona to a t. There is absolutely nothing negative--she almost wears out the word, "wonderful" but more on it later. Meantime because Barbara's book is so thick, I also read another book & dumped another book.

"Our Lady of the Forest"by David Guterson is a dump. After drearily plodding through 97 pages I could take no more. This is not as bad as his previous book that I dumped but it is still not worth reading like his S"now Falling on Cedars." Two flops and a hit for this author. The story takes place in WA about a teen aged runaway, Ann Holmes, who is a mushroom picker in the forests and who sees the Virgin Mary. There is a new young priest who of course is involved in reviewing her visions and ecstatic postures. Who knows where that relationship will go as the author has several hints of the priest perhaps lusting. I did not want to waste anymore time with it. Too many good books await my eyes. This book is in the donation bag for our local library book sale.

"Laura Bush An Intimate Portrait of the first Lady" by Ronald Kessler. And yes I know that Laura Bush is no longer the first lady. I had this one on the shelf pre-election. It is ok. Some interesting photos but nothing overly revealing. Her passion for literacy, libraries and reading are stressed. Laura could just as easily have continued to be a librarian , a school teacher and be as satisfied with her life. She is devoted to her old school friends and the most loyal friend, wife, mother, daughter. We learn that Laura was a thrifty shopper, non materialistic, not at all extravagant and not at all prone to spoil her girls with expensive designer outfits. Laura sees no need for any of that. A very sincere, unassuming woman, Laura retreated to reading when at Kennebunkport with the Bush clan. Her actions at time, remind me of Jacqueline Kennedy with the boisterous Kennedy clan. There is a bit about how Laura convinced George W to give up alcohol but not too much detail. The book presents Laura as what we saw, a background lady who knows herself and is inner directed. A very literate lady who can discuss "The Brothers Karamazov" at the drop of a hat. A quiet woman who occasionally still bums a cigarette. It's an ok read. But I'm not keeping this book either.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bats and critters

A week or so ago, returning home from a meeting, as I opened the garage door I noticed something flying or gliding along the inside. I thought, "a small bird?" and "poor thing. How did it get stuck in here? Maybe it will fly out." It was dark and shouldn't it be in its nest somewhere asleep? But something said to me, "no, not a bird, a bat." A bat? I have never seen a real one in my life, only Halloween likenesses. I retrieved Jerry from relaxing in front of the tube to check out the garage. He immediately turned off the light and told me to go inside as he pronounced that it was a bat. Well I felt kind of smart. How did I know that?

He poked and prodded around among some empty boxes and cardboard piled up for the garbage pick up. No bat. He poked around crevices. No bat. So after a short time he gave up and returned inside. Bat either flew out or was hiding and not to be found. We've not seen it since. I wonder if they are good luck?

But yesterday morning I stepped out into the garage to set up my bike for my morning errands and workout. I noticed that my used to be large Christmas cactus that has a good spot near the window had been whacked--many fronds were knocked off. Oh, I thought, Jerry must have brushed up against it! Darn what a whack job and it did not need trimmed. Wonder why he didn't say something?

Actually I'd gotten a bit annoyed that he let that happen and ignored it. Well as I walked over to assemble my bike (it's collapsible) I reached down and let out the loudest scream as a small critter, brown, fat with beady eyes looked up at me! I thought it was a mouse but now who knows! I ran inside again, but Jerry was in the shower.

See, I really am a city girl at heart. Despite years in the hillside and orchard in CA I don't do critters! Well, be a big girl and get out there I say to myself. Besides it is probably gone now. I must have made an impression on it. But no, there it was clinging to my bike right near where I pull the lever to snap it all back into place! Yeach! It could have bit me when I reached in there. So there it was, fat and brown, same beady eyes, looking at me. I grabbed a handy garden shovel and began to poke at it. "Get out of here!" Like how brazen, why doesn't it leave?
Why is it just clinging to my bike? Back into the house to shudder.

Well I can't just stay in here so out again to the garage. There it still is. Finally with all my frustration and still shuddering, I gave it a good push and it fell from it's spot down into the area of the bike chain fender. What is wrong with this critter? Why is it just hunkering there shuddering? I know I screamed, maybe it's now deaf from my shrill scream? Why doesn't it just get going?

And then I saw it, tiny blood spots on my bike where I pull the lever to reassemble and lock the bike into rideable position. Critter blood spots! I finally realize that when I reached to set up the bike I must have caught part of its toes in there. That explains why it squeaked and would not move! Gross though! So I returned to the house to wait over another cup of tea until Jerry came out of the shower. He would have to deal with this. Which he did.

Of course when he went out the critter was gone. And he finds this very funny. I explain loudly that it is not funny! Not at all and there is critter blood on my bike! What I thought was a mouse may not have been. The dark brown color doesn't sound right to him, but it had a pointy nose , was fat and had that mouse type tail. I know it was not a rat. Jerry thinks it was something else, a mole, a gopher? I don't think so. Some weird MN critter. But now this explains the pruned Christmas cactus. Evidently this critter did that and so Jerry was not blamed for that. Looking closer I see where it chewed the fronds. How rude!

Well we hosed the blood off my bike and I pedaled off on my way. He never found the critter. Where ever it is, what ever it is it must be missing toes or part of a foot. Do I feel bad about that? No, it should have not been there and it should not have eaten my plant! Jerry thinks it might have been in the garage overnight and was hungry. Still no excuse! We live in a small town, in the city limits so what are all these critters doing in our garage? Maybe they will put the word out, stay away from that woman, she cuts off your toes with her bicycle not so unlike the farmers wife who cut off their tails with a carving knife!

Overwhelmed and under slept

Just when I think it's safe to go back in the water---oh wait that's sharks. I have been off blog for so long because I have been too darn tootin' busy. I thought I was retired but with estate work, power of attorney and trying to keep our heads above water here (there's the water again) I feel like I have a job. At least it feels like employment without the compensation, because I have little control over my time. Well, I can choose to not do something at the certain moment and wait another day but then it all piles up.

My friend Sandy, in CA, has cautioned me about time loss in retirement but even Sandy didn't tell me it could get this nutsy! She's frequently said, "everyone wants your time and it becomes very precious. Days fly and you wonder where they went or what happened." Time our elusive wave in the ocean. Everyone thinks you have all the time in the world when retired. HAH! I have so many projects pending--when can I get to them?

I keep thinking of water because I would love to be somewhere on a beach right now! It is wonderful to be back home after PA but so much to do. How can weeds in an untended garden grow over 5 feet high in 3 weeks? Sure would be great if cultivated plants did that! Thrived on neglect. We did not plant our vegetable garden this year because we expected to be traveling. Little did we know the travels would be back and forth to PA.

So I think headway is underway and instead it is the head lights of oncoming traffic. Something like that--the light at the end of the tunnel is oncoming train.

Well boo boo freakin' whoo--you get the picture. I am overwhelmed or at least feel that way these days. Have not yet completely unpacked the treasures we brought from PA. The antiques we shipped arrived safe and sound and were delivered by the same two young men who packed us up in PA. That surprised us and it was nice to see them. They sure work hard. We gave them a nice $$ tip when they left here.

Sunday Jerry took it upon himself to begin to unpack. I had mentioned that I could not find the gold flatware set I'd brought from my aunt's. I wasn't really looking for it, just curious. So his interpretation or attempt to help meant he unpacked a couple boxes of what nots and set them into my Grandma's hutch which we have downstairs. Well that was not helpful as I have certain ways of doing and displaying things. His design did not fit my design. I don't know why he does that because he surely would not want myself arranging things in his garage or shop. Oh but he thinks this is different because it's his house too. So Sunday which I'd wanted to be my leisure kick back and read the Sunday papers day, I had to rearrange and then unpack other things to keep him away from those boxes. It really ticked me off which he could not understand so we replayed our episode of Men are from Mars. He still does not understand why I did not just appreciate his help. And as another friend reminded me, "in 5 years what difference will it make?" None. In fact in 5 days it won't make a difference but it did at the moment.

I thought that I had a buyer for my aunt's home. That is until this evening when my realtor called about results from a home inspection report taken on by the potential buyer. I'd already negotiated down in price because I agreed to pay for 2% of the buyer's closing costs; at first they asked for 6%. I said no way. That means about a couple grand off our proceeds at 2% but I figured it was worth my being able o scratch this off the list of estate tasks. This is a biggee. Reportedly the buyer is a single woman who wants to close by September. Also suspect she is a first time home buyer with out cash down. But supposedly she has a loan secured and the house did come in appraised above our listing price. Well with tonight's demands she better find another house. I said if there was anything shown up in that inspection report it was tough. My same response to my realtor tonite. I hate being nickled and dimed. I hate bartering and negotiating. I am not a rug merchant! Well we have not yet been on the market and I know the house is a gem. So back to square one unless they concede they will fix the "radon" and some hokey business about the electric box, themselves. The electric box as Jerry explained is a higher level than what is needed. Jerry said tell them to go soak their heads. Water again! Home inspectors privately paid look for things to make their fees seem worthwhile. Well the woman now can continue to house hunt and my realtor better get to work selling.

The estate sale will be Saturday and I surely hope it goes well. Another estate task pending until.

Ahh I could get into a black mood and think I celebrated way too soon. But I must trust that if it is right it will be. I know I first turned down their offer when they did not come in full price and they came back two days later with , "OK.." Maybe it will be so again. Or here's a thought, they can take the fix it cost our of their commission, my realtor as Lister and the buyer's as seller! Realtors, maybe a step above used car salesmen!

So here I am at blog again--only it is far too late for me. I have not been sleeping very well off and on. I figure a good night sleep will come sooner or later. Usually I just lay in bed and rest but tonight I got up and came to the computer. Perhaps this is not a good thing because it tends to awaken me...awaken, heck it's already 1:37AM! I'm off and up to bed to lay there till these big brownish eyes close!

I'll count blessings--instead of sheep as the old song goes. First blessing, that I am retired because could not handle this if still in career mode; another, our health reports are good on both of us. Jerry's cardiologist check up went great with another clear for the year and "keep doing what you are doing." Another, Uncle Carl is amenable in assisted living even though he still thinks he should go home. Another, I signed up for Medicare effective in November...oh but I need to find out how my retirement system handles that. Another phone call I need to make...ahh even counting my blessings runs into tasks to be done!