Sunday, December 30, 2007

New Year in Newark?

OK, so last night after the fabulous football game, the weather reporters finally decided that it will in fact snow starting sometime after midnight tonight. Instead of the initial inch or two predicted earlier, it was 4-6 inches by 9 am Monday. Then it would be time to 'clean up'. So all the morning flights will be backed up, I'm sure. Including the Brandeis Swim Team's 9 am flight to Puerto Rico...

I got up this morning, and the weather report is now for up to 10 inches, starting after midnight and getting heavy (an inch an hour) after 5 am. Right now, I'm hoping they'll be oh so wrong, and the rain line will move up from the Cape to include Boston...Otherwise, I might be camping at an airport for the festivities. Ah, the joys of traveling in winter. Good thing I've been preparing myself mentally for hassles. Half the trip was easy. It's that second half...

I wonder if they'll have Perfection Patriots shirts at Logan...though I wouldn't want to wear it to New Jersey....

Stay tuned!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Last Days of 2007

Greetings from the home of the bean and the cod...and the Red Sox, Pats, Celtics, Bruins, and BC Eagles! It's been a nice week visiting the family, reading the local papers, and watching local sports, including BC's whatchamacallit bowl game win last night. Tonight, bring on Eli Manning, we'll have him for dessert.

The weather is like what I left in the Northwest, snow, rain, snow and rain, sleet, a sunny day here and there. Ventured out to the new and improved Natick Mall (now the Natick Collection) with more shopping than the Houston Galleria. They even have a Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus. The kids needed to return something there and we needed to go by the Mass Pike Service center at that same exit. I hate malls. New and improved ones are the worst. Too big. And WHY were all those people there the day after Christmas with their little kids? There are no malls within 60 miles of my new home. I like that.

One big difference here in Boston, there are LOTS of presidential primary political ads, in the run up to the New Hampshire primary. Mostly Clinton, Edwards, Obama, McCain and Rudy G ads. Oh, and Mitt. Lots of Mitt. Mitt's most played ad was about a guy (I don't think he was from MA) who worked for Mitt. Seems his daughter was missing in NYC. Mitt put all his company resources into sucessfully finding the girl. We know he's a good friend, employer and family man. But it seems Mitt isn't that popular locally. What? The former MA guv not popular? Didn't he reign over a governance miracle in the Bay State? Reducing taxes, fixing health care, walking on water? He touts himself as a turnaround, mr fixit, kind of guy. I've been talking with folks here on the ground. Apparently Mitt loves to reduce taxes, and put the power back on the towns and cities to control their destinies- without the funds to do it. The end result: every fee imaginable in the State of Massachusettes has been raised, with more to come. The Mass Pike tolls and the tunnel tolls are going up again in the new year, so get those transponders now, folks. My own daughter wanted a toll tag for Christmas. It's funny that people are quick to complain when these fees go up, but don't connect the dots. There's no free lunch. The Big Dig cost overruns didn't help state finances either. I still need to find out how the new health plan is working. So before you head to your polling place or caucus, or mail in your ballot for your primary, you might want to check and see what the people in MA really think about the Mittster and think about whether that's what you want for the country. I'm sure he's happy all the focus has been on his Mormon faith rather than on the mess he left behind. Though we probably don't have to worry too much. Political candidates post JFK haven't been treated kindly. And Mitt's no JFK...where have I heard that before....

I'll be back in the Gorge for New Year's, unless I get stranded in Newark. Then I start my learning curve for how to caucus. Something new and different- I've never lived in a caucus state before. Now if only I could figure out who I want to vote for...I've got it narrowed down to three...I don't think that's good enough. It's tough being a Gemini...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What's Cookin'

Sorry I haven't written for a few days. I've been REALLY busy…baking COOKIES. Nothing gets me in the holiday spirit more than baking cookies. First, I put on my favorite CD, The Best Christmas Album in the World (Virgin Records), which I bought years ago in the UK. Ask my kids, it isn't Christmas unless we hear this album, ESPECIALLY disc 1, which starts out with John and Yoko's And so this is Christmas/War is Over. What's not to like about that?

Next, I dust off my folder of cookie recipes, gathered from 6 Christmas Cookie Exchanges in Nigeria (1991-1996). It was nice to live in a place long enough, with people who like to bake. We'd get together for lunch at someone's house, and everyone brought a dozen cookies for each participant. Then you'd take home a dozen different cookies times 8 or 10, or however many friends came for lunch. I have my favorites, which I make every year, and each recipe reminds me of a wonderful woman. Maren is those Hershey Kiss peanut butter blossoms, Jane is Ginger Cookies, Linda and Kim are the chocolate mint cookies with melted Andes chocolates on top. There's also a Rocky Road Bar recipe the kids and I added to the repertoire when we moved to Louisiana in '97. And of course, my Mom's Spritz cookies (I do have a cookie press, gotta have the trees), and Macaroons (off the Baker's Coconut bag) which remind me of Uncle Dick, who made some every Christmas. Some years I add in a not so often made recipe, but the listed ones are the standards. I don't have a cookie exchange these days, so I have to make them all.

I've sent off boxes of cookies to both kids to aid in finals studying. Some will stay here, some will go out as small gifts to neighbors, most of whom I don't know. We always did that in our neighborhood growing up, and I've done it everywhere I've lived, most of the time…

So, Cookies and Tunes. I'm feeling in the spirit!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Further Adventures in Snow

I'm starting to get grief for not posting more regularly from my 4 readers. I'm sorry. But I use the computer downstairs, and it's COLD down here. That's my excuse, or at least the best one I could think of right now.

Been working on some more profound, issues related posts, but they aren't quite ready for prime time. Soon, Susan, I promise.

For now, amuse yourself with this entry about our snow park adventure. See? Another excuse. How can I post when I'm having so much fun outside? Didn't you mothers all tell your kids to get away from the TV/computer and go play OUTSIDE? Just walking the walk here….

Last week we loaded up the new snowshoes, the old XC skiis and boots, and the dog, and drove up the road a piece, past Trout Lake, to the Atkinson Snow Park, which is about as far as the snow plows go. For a mere $31 a season, you can get a parking pass for all the WA snow parks, where you can do any combination of Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, dog mushing, or snowmobiling. A bonus for those of us who live on the state line, they're good at OR snow parks as well. AND they're easy peel off passes so you can use it on multiple cars in your ownership. Pretty cool. But back to my story…

We arrived at the empty lot (it was a week day after all) and found latrines, a warming hut (photo right) and the ungroomed trail. We also found out that dogs are verboten, but no one was there to say anything, and we did take care of 'business'. We strapped on snowshoes for the first time, and headed off down the trail. What great exercise! I clomped along behind Lloyd and Brindle, who finally figured out it was easier to follow his packed down trail than to leap through deep snow on her own. (Boy did she sleep well that night!) A few more regular outings like that, and I'll be in size 10's in now time!

The dog was running out of steam, and enjoying burying her head in the snow to reach the soft, more edible stuff rather than trekking, so we headed back to the car. Time to dust off the old Nordic gear, which has been in storage for about 16 years while we lived in warm places.

The good news was, the old skiis worked okay. The bad news? My hardly used Asolo touring boots succumbed to degenerative glue syndrome. At first I thought the old 3 pin binding broke. I looked down and saw the binding intact, with the toe piece firmly secured in the pins. But the rest of the boot? Divorced from its sole. The only thing keeping the boot anywhere near the ski was the gaiter strap under the boot. VERY funny. Fortunately, we weren't too far from the parking lot, so I turned around and tried to slide/walk back on one ski. Bad idea. The disease was contagious, and boot two separated. I was wishing I had my snowshoes back! Bottom line, we need new Nordic gear. A lot has changed since the 80's with regard to ski equipment, so we have some research to do. Meanwhile, we'll try renting some, and do more snowshoeing! Fine with me!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

For My Friends in Warm Places

Today we are savoring a snowy DAY after a snowy NIGHT. Glad we don't have to go anywhere. This is what I woke up seeing this morning. That's right. Open eyes, see this. The birds are having a feast at the feeder. Blue Jays, chickadees, sparrows, juncos, Eat At DK's neon signs must be pointing the way.
The driveway is getting covered. Lloyd drove the Outlander to the street to see how it did on our steep gravel driveway. Test result: A plus.
Had to shovel the slush off the front deck earlier, but it's coming down a little drier by noon.
Brindle likes this stuff. Fun to romp in, fun to make yellow snow on, fun to eat. Just like a kid.

Our walk was messy at times, slippery at times, but beautiful and peaceful. And not windy. Here's a snowy gorge view from our walk.
So we came back home and are decking the halls. Inside. How nice and cozy.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Savor the Moment

It snowed last night. I mean REALLY snowed, not just errant flakes. I looked out on the deck (aka the spare fridge) to retrieve the leftover pumpkin pie and there it was...White Stuff. Several inches of it. By the time it was done, there were four inches piled up. I went to bed with visions of a winter wonderland greeting me in the morning. Alas, the wind shifted and warmed air came rushing up the Gorge from Portland. All but a dusting on the ground was washed away. Good thing I took a picture. The daylight photos will have to wait for another storm.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

APB on Chip and Dale

Where are all the chipmunks and squirrels that should be packing away acorns and nuts for winter???? The front deck has become a hardhat zone. I was sitting out there the other afternoon, reading a book and enjoying a cup of tea (it's not ALWAYS wine, guys!) and was constantly dinged with falling acorns. A tiny acorn falling from 20-30 feet hits the deck with a very audible crack. It hits ones knee with a similar audible crack, followed by a short burst of expletives that can't be written here. Like my friend Susan says, My Momma Comes Here.

I have seen nary a squirrel since I got here. I never saw any squirrels in Sugar Land, TX, but then I didn't expect to. There were few big ole trees where I lived. Just new sticks in the ground. We did spot deer, armadillos, rabbits, mice, rats, skunks, snakes and the occasional feral pig but no squirrels. In Mandeville, LA, we had a mini forest behind our house, so we had LOTS of squirrels, along with raccoons, foxes, and other small varmints. A major sport was watching the squirrels try to defeat the anti squirrel mechanisms on our bird feeders. Cajun squirrels are pretty crafty.Those barrel jobs you put on the post so they can't climb up? Took 'em a week to find a tree branch that hung sort of close to the feeder and perfect a death leap to the platform containing the treasured seeds.

The special Canadian made spring loaded feeder we attached to a tree trunk was a bit more trouble for them. That one took almost a year. Conquest involved carefully approaching the feeder from above, in a head down, claws dug in position. Carefully, the squirrel would move on to the little roof area, then finally hang on the spring loaded bar, shaking the seeds loose for his waiting friends below. The funniest thing I ever saw was the day a raccoon decided if a squirrel could do it, he could too. But he got stuck in that head down position just inches above 'the prize'. Needless to say, he eventually took a tumble and never attempted that maneuver again.

So what to do? I've swept loads of the suckers off the deck into a growing pile on the hill beside the house. In plain view of any industrious squirrels who might want easy pickings. Timmy Tip Toes, where are you??? Winter's coming! The paper said today that a La Nina is forming that will bring us an unusually wet and cold winter. Tell you what, I'll save a pile for you under the deck…and hope they don't sprout into more trees!

Happy Thanksgiving

It sure feels like the Thanksgivings I remember in New England. It's gotten colder. In the low 30's when we get up. And grayer. And Sunday night it SNOWED. We went up to Wind River Cellars for a vertical tasting event (meaning tasting successive years of a wine, not the postion of the taster, at least by the end of the event), and just that slight elevation turned the icy rain into snow. We had a dusting on our deck by morning, but it melted pretty fast. But it's all still on Underwood, across the way, as evidenced in the photo.

So we're off to my sister Mary's for dinner. Thanksgiving with someone from my family, for the first time since I left Rhode Island, so that's over 26 years. My girls are staying in Boston, and will feast at my sister Linda's house. It will be a good day for all.

Wishing all four of my readers a Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you are!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Best Early Xmas Present EVER

I have the best husband in the world. Life is never dull with him around.
It's been a crazy year. We sent our oldest off to Berlin for almost 6 months. Then put our house up for sale. We graduated the youngest from high school. Then Lloyd retired after 25 years, 5 moves, three different states (TX twice) and one foreign country with Gulf/Chevron. He and I moved our family's earthly goods to Washington. I moved the Alina from TX to Boston. We all visited Keara in Berlin, and helped schlep her excess baggage back to Boston. Their lives are in Boston. Ours is in White Salmon, 3000 miles away.

Late Finals and Swim Team training trips meant limited time for a holiday visit. Combined with the fact that there is no reason to make the trek but to see us and the dog, I really don't blame them for preferring to stay with the Sullivan clan this year. And with tickets running over $500 even for the red eye, it's a pricey proposition. But I was feeling mighty blue about not seeing them this holiday. I knew the day would come, but I wasn't ready for it yet. This place already feels like home to Lloyd and the dog, and it's starting to feel like home to me. But except for their beds and books and stuffed animals that we moved with us, there are no memories yet to endear this place to them. Yet.

Anyone who has traveled at Xmas time knows how AWFUL it is. And going cross country is even worse. Lloyd had no desire to repeat our October itinerary. He'd made the PDX-BOS via Newark round trip in Aug as well. A third time in 4 months was not in the cards for him. Especially after getting stuck in Newark for 12 hours on the way home in August. But because he got stuck in Newark, I get to go to Boston for Xmas.

A Continental free flight coupon showed up unexpectedly in the mail just a week or so after his trip from hell. And my dear sweet husband let me cash it in to fly to Boston on Xmas eve, when everyone in my family usually descends upon my sister to begin the festivities. Hey, guys, don't disband too early this year...I'll be along about 8...unless I get stuck in NEWARK!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Election Day, Northwest Style

This is something very new and strange to me. It's election day. I voted. But I never had to leave home to do it. I have to admit, I actually LIKE the physical GOING to the Poll. I like voting in a booth, surrounded by others voting. I even volunteered as a poll watcher last year, back in the contentious TX CD22, to make sure there was no funny business (there wasn't at my polling place on election day, but there WAS in my early voting assignment). Voting at your local polling place is a community thing, democracy in action.

This year, I'm living in rural WA. Washington and Oregon have evolved to Mail In Ballots. A few weeks back, we got a Voter's Guide. Imagine that! (Hey Susan, when was the last time you saw a Voter's Guide with the issues to be voted on, an explanation of what it is, followed by Pros and Cons)

So what does one do with this information? After the guide arrives, your ballot arrives in your mailbox. You take your black pen, and fill in the little bubbles yes or no, and fill in the bubbles beside the names running for office. This year they were all non partisan offices, and all unopposed (at least one thing was familiar to me). Looking forward to NEXT year's ballot to see how things shake out when there are partisan positions to fill.

Anyway, you fill in your bubbles, sign the ballot, put it in envelope 1. Sign envelope 1 and seal it into envelope 2. You now can choose to put a stamp on it and have the mail truck pick it up from your box at the end of the driveway, or you can drop in off in the voting box at the Post Office. You're done! Sounds like a good thing, right, and that EVERYONE would vote...

Not so fast, buddy. Estimates are that at most 50% of people will have voted in Oregon, where there are two very contentious measures to vote on. I'll bet WA is a lot less. That 50% might sound good to y'all dealing with abysmal turnouts in your off year elections but it's rather pathetic to think that HALF of the people didn't bother to do what people in other countries would kill to be able to do. Or die trying for that right.

Come on people. All of you of CST, you've got an hour. Get out there! There's still time on the west coast to vote. You just have to drive down to the collection box by 8 pm. You're too late for the mail truck.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Give it up, Rudy

AS IF Rudy Giuliani doesn't have enough problems, he's ticked off the Red Sox Nation as he woos voters in NH. My favorite 'home boy' EJ Dionne takes him to task for trying to convince voters that he, a big YANKEES fan, rooted for the Sox during the series. Come on Rudy, no one's buying! EJ also does a nice job 'splainin' team loyalty, and why it's not a bad thing. EJ has been a Sox fan as long as I have, since I can remember the days of Bill Monboquette. Man, how did we get so old?????? Thanks to Jill and Mike for the heads up on this one, found in the Houston Chron, of all places. And thank you, EJ. Always a pleasure.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

SO good SO good SO good

Okay, so I'm back from poring over everything I can read on the Sox. Time to get ready for trick or treat. My friend Jill let her Sox Roctober spirit carry over into her jack o lantern artistry. No trick, we're all TREATIN' this year...Manny says there's a party at his house...

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Love That Dirty Water

You gotta admit, the entertainment person for the Red Sox has done a bang up job with the music. Loved John Williams the other night, but my heart belongs to James Taylor. MLB has a nice write up on him, as well as a good story on Megan Kaiser, the music programmer at Fenway.

Fenway has plenty of musical tradition. Some of it makes sense, like the Standell's Dirty Water, which has been played after every win since 1997 (I think that first rip would be a great ringtone). Some doesn't but is fun anyway, like the 8th inning Sweet Caroline sing a long. There is nothing like sitting in a crowd of 34,000 waiting for the PA to go quiet for the 'bom bom bom…good times never seemed so good, so good so good' part. I love it and I sing it at the top of my lungs every time I go, which isn't often enough. Reminds me of college days way back in the early 70's when we would do the same thing with this song during weekend parties. I also sing Take Me Out to the Ball Game at the top of my lungs during the 7th inning stretch. I'll probably get hate mail, but I'm not so fond of the God Bless America moment that seems to have become standard after the 6th inning. It's a nice song, but I feel like we get the patriotism acknowledged from the get go with the Star Spangled Banner, as we should. But that's just me. I guess it gives another performer a chance to sing during the game.

Then there are the songs they play for certain players when they come in. Like Wild Thing for Jonathan Papelbon, coming in from the bull pen to do what he does so well. And his Riverdance performances have got to make you smile. This guy with the deadly stare knows how to stay loose.

Along with Dirty Water, Kaiser plays Three Dog Night's Joy to the World and the Drop Kick Murphys' Tessie after every win. The Drop Kick Murphys played Game 7 of the ALCS, with the step dancers on the warning track. Their rousing rendition of Tessie is the Sox good luck charm. The history goes back to the 1903 World Series, when the Broadway tune was used as a rally song. Down 3-1 to the Pirates in the best of nine series, a group of local crazies who called themselves the Royal Rooters tried to rally their team with every song they could think of. The Pirates apparently were most annoyed by 'Tessie' so the Rooters stuck with it. Must have special power, because Boston went on to win the next 4 games and the series.

Interestingly, the Royal Rooters stopped singing in 1918, and the Sox didn't win another series for 86 years. In 2004, 'Tessie' was back, performed by the local Drop Kick Murphys. The new lyrics were a collaboration among the band, Sox players Johnny (aka the Traitor) Damon, Bronson Arroyo and Lenny DiNardo, the Sox VP of public affairs Charles Steinberg, and a Boston Herald sports writer, Jeff Horrigan. I'd say the new version had the power, as well.

"Boston, you know we love you madly

Hear the crowd roar to your sound

Don't blame us if we ever doubt you

You know we couldn't live without you

Red Sox, you are the only only only"

'Nuf Ced...

Friday, October 26, 2007

Must Be Something in the Water

Has the MDC been slipping something into the reservoirs, or is it a strange and powerful alignment of the planets? Boston sports teams are playing out of their minds.

Last night I was busy with the recall button on the remote. The BC-VT game started at 4:30 (lovely Pacific time) and the Sox were on at 5. Thank goodness for long Fox commercials. I was rooting for a mere score for BC, so they wouldn't be totally blanked in Blacksburg. Ryan must have been drinking Tom Brady water, because his two touchdown passes in the last couple of minutes of the game were unbelievable. I hope all the kids back in Chestnut Hill were watching. Hell is having midterms during the World Series home games and the first big conference challenge on national TV.

Then back to the nail biter at Fenway. What a night for pitchers! The Rockies are most certainly ready to move the show west. Let's see what happens in the Rocky Mountain High. Did anyone else just love the dancing Papelbon figure in the stands? And the Beckkkkkkkket sign the night before? No hankies for the Fenway crowd. They make cool signs.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Back in Paradise

Whew! What a wild ride the last few days have been. You don't even have to go to the Pahk to feel the excitement in the old hometown. After a long swim meet at BC followed by a team and parents dinner, we drove along Comm Ave to the Marriott to watch the game and drink the wine we would have loved with our dinner (swim events don't have tailgate parties...yet...wait til NEXT year's parents weekend...).

There was not a soul on the road at 9 pm. All of the Boston area was inside, watching the game. Lady luck was with us, and we scored the only empty table in the bar, right by the TV. And there we stayed until the last out.

Sunday morning we barely made it for the start of the meet. And another long night of intense ball, until the poor Indians imploded. It was 12:30 before we went to bed, with a 5:15 am taxi arriving to take us to Logan for the flight home. Yes, the taxi driver had stayed up, too. A sleepy MLB photographer was on our plane. He had gotten no sleep, staying to cover all the post game interviews and celebrating, but didn't get to partake. He was actually a little cranky, complaining about how the Indians players would do interviews but the Sox players were not cooperative. There were plenty of nice stories in the Globe the next day about players spending time entertaining the fans who had stayed late...I'd rather do that than pointless interviews, myself...heck, all the viewers had work the next day or things to do...they went to bed after Coco Crisp crashed into the wall to make the last out.

So now I'll look forward to Wed night, when I'll be able to watch on PACIFIC Time! GO SOX!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

NOT so far from the Pahk

About 8 miles, actually. Fenway Fran will be on a short hiatus to the home turf, closer to family in this stressful time. How quickly we know how the Yankees felt a few weeks ago. Come on guys, PLEASE bring it home to Boston so we don't have to listen to that guy pound the big drum any more. It's a TEAM sport. We need to see more TEAM. One pitcher and a couple of long ball hitters can't carry you through playoffs. I hope to see the TEAM out there tonight, playing like it IS the end of the world...even though Manny's right, it's a game, someone wins, someone loses, and if you lose, you come back and try again next year. Red Sox fans for generations know the mantra...wait til next year...
Footnote to the media and those who are so easily offended: Manny Is Just Being Manny.
And how come one player (former-some would argues should be still with us- awesome Sox outfielder Trot Nixon) is LAUDED in the press for trying to keep things light to reduce stress for Cleveland, and another's attempts at same are used for negative drama? It's easy to twist and take advantage of people's words, especially someone whose first language is not English. He's not running for public office, he hits baseballs for a living (pretty darn well, too). Get over it.
Are there any other baseball fans out there who think that we are being given way too much information, that coaches and players should not be miked during games? Even the post game coach interviews are overly intrusive and uncomfortable. As my brother says, Stop Yourselves.

Monday, October 15, 2007

More Harvest Day Fun

Here's part two of the Harvest Day expedition.

They've got quite an efficient little system at Wind River Cellars...
After we grunts cut and haul the grapes to the big wooden bins, a tractor arrives to take them to the winery. The big box of grapes is emptied into the top of the contraption that looks like it belongs in a a game of Mouse Trap:
Then the grapes slide down and the good stuff is separated from the bad, just like my handy dandy Kitchenaid tool I use on apples. Here are some nice Riesling grapes ready to go! When they've gone through the 'mill', they go into the press, that reddish machine you can see in the background of the first picture. And that, my friends, was as far as I got before I was waylayed by some potent Tempranillo...the impaired photographer could not be corrected by the autofocus...

We're starting to feel like locals….

It was a beautiful sunny fall Saturday in The Gorge. We put on our work boots and headed out to Wind River Cellars for the annual Harvest Day. A motley crew of volunteers, armed with cool blue handled knives and yellow plastic bins, headed for the vineyards to cut luscious Riesling grapes from the vines. For six hours we filled our bins, hiked down to dump them in the bigger boxes, then hiked back up to find a new spot. There was so much sugar on my fingers, I almost hesitated to use my camera! There were even PRIZES hidden in the vineyard, little plastic wrapped paper strips that entitled the finder to something wonderful, like a bottle of wine, or a WRC Tshirt (which I was lucky enough to find on my LAST vine!). After we'd completed our task, we were treated to a fabulous prime rib dinner. I have never seen such a huge piece of beef! And of course, lots of Wind River Cellars vino. Unfortunately for me, all I'd consumed since my bowl of oatmeal at 8:30 am was water and the occasional grape, so I was dispatched to an altered state very quickly. Had to eat a second helping of Kris' awesome potatoes to keep an even keel. On the plus side, it did numb the pain of the Sox game...Full bins 'heading' to the boxes
The long hike down to the 'grape dump'

I'll upload a few more operational photos for the next post...

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Out With the Old, In With the New

I've spent a lot of time with my new old stove since moving in. All I can ask is, Did ANY of our renters COOK? The first tenants were the sellers renting back, so I can understand them not complaining about the stove. The next year's tenants never complained about ANYTHING after we installed AC during a particularly hot summer, God Love 'Em. Round three made up for rounds one and two, but never mentioned the stove. Last year's renters were mercifully quiet from our perspective, but I can't speak for the neighbors. Sixteen year old stoves need more help than it's worth giving them. The burners were a bit unstable, but they could boil water and jam, which is what I've been doing lately. The oven was another story. Any baking at all, no matter how low the temp, would set off an unceasing beep not unlike Sputnik, and flash a digital (must have been an early digital stove) F-2 error. We loved it so much we started calling it the F-U error. One (extended middle?) finger on the cancel button at all times to try and shut it up. The roast leg of lamb ended up in the gas grill outside. The blackberry pie was ALMOST done, so I just kept the door closed. My patient husband tried the physical approach, but it would not be beaten into submission. So this week, the old gray (black) Hotpoint was replaced with a sleek new filly, a Kitchen Aid smooth topped beauty with a convection oven. My heart be still.

Of course the replacing was not without a bit of drama. The Old was a drop in. The New is freestanding. So that meant pulling Old out, wiring in a box for the plug, and cutting the counter top and baseboard to exactly 30" of space to slide NEW in. They only deliver twice a week out here to the boonies. We had time, right? NO. It'll come the next day. By noon. But my darling is great with a saw and wires, so we were just about ready when the truck came. Good thing they got lost first.

So here she is, New, in all her glory. We'll plan the remodel around her. Some things just can't wait!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Game Two

Getting all my chores done so I can watch teevee this afternoon. It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, with a fresh blanket of snow on Mt. Hood. Will download a pic later for your viewing pleasure, and to make all my TX friends feel cooler.

I think my friend J's Bosox Shrine put the hex on the Yankees last night. Every post season, J lovingly displays her shrine on her mantle. It includes her Impossible Dream album, a '67 World Series ticket and scoah cahd, a BOS bumpah stickah, a signed Bobby Doerr bat, and my contribution, a giant Charlie Brown pez head with a B cap that plays Take Me Out to the Ball Game when you extract a pez. In the past few post seasons, we'd meet at the shrine, open a bottle of pinot grigio, and watch a game or two. We have to do it long distance now. My wine is chillin' and my cell phone is charged. Meet you at the game, J!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Take Me Out to the Bill Game

Not to get heavy twice in one day, but we have a president who just vetoed a bill to provide health care to children. A bill that was passed by both houses. We the People through our elected representatives wanted this bill. But the pres said no. The pres wants much more $$$ though, from We the People, to fund his war, to continue killing and maiming soldiers and civilians, ours and theirs. How 'bout giving a little bit here, W? We the People need an override.

Now I'm going to watch the game...then make my sweetheart an excellent 26th anniversary dinner! We'll eat out tomorrow, when the Yankees play...

RIP Lovelle Svart

A local story has me thinking about compassion…and where the heck our humanity has gone. It's been a while since I read anything that packed such a punch. It was an incredible piece in the Oregonian on Sunday about Lovelle Svart, who had been documenting her battle with terminal lung cancer, ending with her decision to take advantage of Oregon's Death with Dignity law. You can read about her here. I dare anyone with a heart to read this story, and not feel touched by it. Oregon is the ONLY state where people can ask their doctors for life ending medication. It is not an easy process. It involves multiple steps, coordinated with your doctor, and is not taken lightly. Yet there were 'letters to the editor' beginning on Monday morning, decrying the paper's decision to run such a story on the front pages of the paper, GASP! The ABOMINATION of it all. GLORIFYING SUICIDE! Hardly. One person even pointed out that we know the law exists, we don't need to read about it like this, it should be kept quiet. Oregonians are the lucky ones. They have the law. No one else does. And people DO keep it quiet in 49 states because it is ILLEGAL to put yourself out of your misery in a humane way.

Then it got me thinking that even though we celebrate Freedom of Speech, last time I looked, people want to SPEAK but they don't want to listen, share, empathize, FEEL what someone else does. It's not only the right to die issue, it's any 'moral' issue (aren't they all?) like abortion/right to life, gay marriage, public health and education, ANYTHING that involves people and the decisions they have to make about their lives. Has the world gone crazy and no one can put themselves in another person's shoes for just a minute? Is it touching too much of a nerve for someone who sees things in black and white, only right and wrong, with no shades of gray, to put a name and a face and a story with the issue? Why is it that if my way isn't your way, then it must be wrong? Just because a law allows a person to do something you may not agree with doesn't mean YOU have to do it yourself. I can tell stories about people I know that should make any human being agree that a person with a terminal illness should have the right to die with dignity, that women of childbearing age have a right to contraception, and to make decisions about their health and welfare, that gay couples should have equal rights, including adopting children, that all children should to educated and protected. But there are too many simple answers these days. It's right, it's wrong. Lovelle was brave enough to put her name and face on this particular issue. Good for her. Now if only people could really hear what she said.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Twelve Years Coming-AL East Champs

They DID it!

And THANK GOD they'll play a West Coast team in the first round. I won't have to look on the last page of the sports section to get the scores!

Now to snag the 'best record in baseball' crown!


Update: HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE! It's Home Sweet Home in Oct for Boston.

Speaking of "For Boston", has anyone noticed that BC is now 5-0 for the first time since 1954 (um, I was 2!). I noticed, because I have a freshman there, and a big ca CHING goes to BC monthly. Somehow, it's easier to take...Sick. I know. Sick.

But then, I remember the Doug Flutie Hail Mary Pass...I was stuck at Logan waiting for a flight New Year's Day and saw it on a monitor there. We got to Dallas en route to Houston (the FIRST time I lived there), and were stuck in an ice storm. Dallas doesn't do ice well...

And Speaking of Houston...breaking news today...the Sox will play at Minute Maid Park next June! Just might be the only thing that drags my bones back to's a dandy pahk!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Chain Smoking

My sister from OR came up to play this weekend. We always have a good time, and this visit was no exception. We hiked, we touristed, we ate burgers and brats at Hooba's, we tasted wine, played National Park Monopoly (I had to work some tough deals to beat my 9 year old niece)...and as always, we talked politics. We haven't figured out how to save the world yet, but we're working on it. A few more bottles of Wind River Cellars Tempranillo, and we just might do it. That's me tasting some of their Cabernet Franc right out of the barrel, with my better half on the left, and winemaker Joel in the middle.

Now back to why I entitled this "Chain Smoking"...At one point my sister and I were talking about cigarette taxes. I shared my friend Susan's recent blog on the Congressional vote and the tobacco companies post card response to my former congressman's vote. My sister shared this delightful piece in return: Mr. Butt's Big Day
Check them out. Now I'm going to go learn how to link to my favorite blogs....

Friday, September 21, 2007

Hot Times in the Gorge

I'd like to say it's the level of fun, or the weather (which has been delightfully cool…eat your hearts out TX friends…I'm wearing jeans, long sleeves and a FLEECE VEST at NOON!). But it's not that.

No place is perfect. I'll skip the social imperfections of different places I've lived, like commutes, bad drivers, intolerance, politics, for just a few. I'll focus on natural imperfections. Houston has its heat and humidity, hurricanes, tornados, flooding and lightning. Ditto for Louisiana. New England has the occasional hurricane, blizzard, and ice storms. California has earthquakes and fires. The New England and California imperfections aren't deal breakers for me, so I was more than OK with a move to the Pacific Northwest. Well, our little neck of the woods made the night news last night, and front page of section B of the Oregonian today with a Gorge fire.

It started after the morning dog walk. Close to noon we heard fire sirens, and could smell smoke. One look from our deck across to Underwood Mt, and we could see why. Plumes of smoke were rising from a spot on the Columbia River side of the mountain. We were planning a trek across to Hood River. I was in dire need of canning jars and a run to a major grocery store. Instead of leaving the dog behind, we decided to take her, just in case. The view from the bridge was amazing. I imagined I was seeing orange flames. We got to our destination, which was directly across from the conflagration. I wasn't imagining the orange flames. People were standing in the parking lots staring across at the scene. Everyone knows it can happen any time, any where, up here. And depending on how strong the famous Gorge winds are, a fire can become a very big deal very quickly.

By the time we got home, around 3:30 pm, the helicopters were out, making big sweeping passes to drop water on the flames, then right by the deck and down to the river to scoop up more. It sounded like a MASH set. Fortunately the winds died down as the day went on, and by evening it was pretty still. When we went to bed, firefighters were working to contain the now 150 acre fire that had consumed 4 homes plus one vacant house. People in Cook and Underwood were being evacuated. But officials were hopeful that by today, things would be under control. No big winds forecast until Saturday. They'd dug fire breaks, and there was a river and a road for it to cross, if it managed to go over the side of the mountain, before it got to our hill.

This morning things looked a little better. They said it was 40% contained. The planes were out dumping fire retardant, since the lack of wind made this tactic effective today. There were some awesome photos in the online edition of the Oregonian, though the most spectacular was miscaptioned, claiming the fire was 'on White Salmon, WA'. It was NEAR White Salmon, WA, the closest town to the fire. I had to fire off an email to my sister who is coming to visit tonight from Yamhill County, letting her know she should still come.

Just a little reminder that we are not as in control of our lives as we think we are. One spark, dry brush, big winds and a mountainside goes up in flames. It consumes whatever is in its way. Our wireless relay is on top of that mountain, so we had no internet most of the day. NPR was knocked out because it's relayed from there as well. Our phone is VOIP, so it was out. Officials warned cell phone reception would be spotty. The power stayed on, fortunately. And we were able to watch the news (satellite). We were much luckier than the 60 families who had to pack and leave, just across the way. Sure helps put things in perspective. I barely gave the baseball scores a thought yesterday.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Need for Speed

Just for the record, I'm NOT talking pharmaceuticals here, OK?

We were out and about this weekend, checking out what folks do for fun in these parts. Heading west along The River, we passed up previously checked out spots like the petroglyphs at a State Park, numerous Lewis and Clark Historical markers, Maryhill Winery and the Stonehenge war memorial. We headed towards Goldendale. What a quaint sounding name. Not much to report about Goldendale. It was golden, all right. Just a big volcanic tableland with lots of ranches, not a lot of trees, a town bigger than we thought it would be, and The Festival of Wheels and Music going on downtown. There had been a classic car parade earlier, and the results were being announced as we passed through. Folks looked like they were having fun. We moved along, and checked 'See Goldendale' off of our to do list.

The BIG action was just a few miles outside of town, on Maryhill Loop Rd, where the Maryhill Festival of Speed was being held. The Maryhill Loop Rd, according to the festival website, was the first paved road in Washington, built in 1913 and used as a highway by those vintage Model T's we saw in Goldendale until 1947, when a bypass was built. Take a look at the road to see why a bypass was necessary. The Loop Rd fell into disrepair, until the Maryhill Museum funded a rebuilding of 2.2 miles of the road, reopening to pedestrian and bicycle traffic in 1998. Since then, it's become a favorite of 'gravity racers' worldwide. These 'gravity racers', including downhill skateboarders, street lugers, classic lugers, gravity bikers, and inline skaters roll down this course with 17 very sharp turns at speeds topping 55 mph. Who knew?

We pulled into a 'scenic overlook' packed with cars. A festive group of people, including families, bikers, and local cruisers looking for something fun to do, sat in anticipation of the next heat of skateboarders. They were way off schedule, we heard. The lugers were supposed to start at 2:30. The skateboarders weren't done until after 4. We watched a few heats, but could never see who won as they disappeared behind the 13th curve. So we drove down to the place where Maryhill Loop Rd comes into the highway, and found the spectator parking lot. We hiked in about a quarter mile to the finish line, haystacks on either side in case of crashes. There were tents, canopies, announcers, contestants who were out of the competition, families and friends of the racers, and the patient lugers waiting their turn to ride up the hill with their sleds in the back of a U Haul. We actually got to see the ultimate winner urge his board past the leader right at the finish line. You'd have thought he won the Olympics! He ripped off his helmet, unleashing a mop of curly green…VERY GREEN…hair. We watched him as he was interviewed by the media. Such enthusiasm for his sport. And to think, we didn't even know it existed until today!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Power of Uncle Dick

This is the time of year that tries the souls of Red Sox fans everywhere. You know the drill...get as many games up as possible early in the season because no matter what, it always comes down to those last Boston-NY series. Prepare to moan (like we all did on Friday night). I could feel the change in the wind that night after 34000 people in The Pahk and countless milllions of us expats watching their TV's all across the country all exhaled in one mighty sigh.

But Saturday would be different. Not the 'tomorrow's another day' kind of different. Saturday was Uncle Dick's birthday. He would have been 76, but he went to that big ballpark in the sky after a bout with pancreatic cancer 9 years ago, shortly after his birthday. I know that he watches over his beloved Red Sox and Patriots from the sky boxes. He never saw them win the World Series or Super Bowl, but he always had faith that they would. Someday. So I have to believe that he has passed into a zone where maybe, just maybe, he has a little more influence.

Uncle Dick was our 'fairy god uncle'. I know that sounds strange. But as a gang of seven kids growing up in a loving home where ends barely met, bachelor Uncle Dick was very special indeed. He took my brother and me to our first Red Sox game (and second, and third...), and the love affair with Fenway was ingrained early. He gave me my first transistor radio, which I snuck in to school, with the earphone wire in my sleeve so I could listen to the '67 Impossible Dream games that cruelly coincided with class.

For his last birthday I wrote the ditty below and emailed it up for my mom to read to him. He died less than 2 weeks later, and I almost didn't make it back for the funeral from New Orleans due to a little problem called Hurricane George (did I mention his middle name was George?). He wasn't perfect, I know as an adult, but as a kid, he was pretty much IT. So I love to remember him on his birthday. And I knew he would help out our guys if he possbly could. And he did. Ten zip. Take that Yankees. See ya on Sunday.

An Ode to Uncle Dick
On the Occasion of his 67th Birthday

At 5 AM I’m wide awake
With thoughts of you, before daybreak.
A little rhyme forms in my head
To say the things which should be said.
For it’s your birthday, so here’s your prize:
A glimpse of YOU from my nearsighted eyes.

Uncle Dick means family.
An important branch on the family tree.
Our “fairy god uncle” would whisk us away,
One or two at a time, to be “Queen for a Day”.
An Ice Show, a ball game, a special dinner,
You always made me feel like a winner.

“How ’bout them Red Sox?” Will they play this fall?
“Why didn’t you catch that foul ball?”
(Remember the jerk behind us yell
At his wife, whose knee surely hurt like hell?)
The Oyster House, the horseradish story,
Bernadette Devlin in all her glory.

Newton Street, baked bean suppers were a ‘gas’.
Mr. Parker in the cellar, Grandma’s teeth in a glass.
Charlie Brown, Plum Island, the Red Coach, Let’s Go!
Lots of fun watching MUNG BEANS grow!
Navassa, the place we all loved to let loose,
Nonie in her life jacket taking lots of abuse.

Uncle Dick is cool, he has lots of soul.
In HIS car we’d turn up the Rock ‘n Roll.
And who can forget his immortal James Brown?
“I feel good!” could be heard all over the town.
Other things always remind me of you.
Old Spice, Munchkins, Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce, too.

So on this your birthday, I’ll celebrate
All these things that make you great.
I wish I could tell you in person, so badly
That I will always Love You Madly!
Happy Birthday!

Email from sister Annie:

Hey Fran,
I love the blog!
Here's my favorite Uncle picture. From Layla's 2nd birthday (1978).
I love it because he looks so happy - just like he did with us! - and because Layla has his wallet and Liam is in handcuffs.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Berry Nice

What can I say about my first post to Far from the Pahk?
The Pahk is Fenway. Far is the Columbia River Gorge.
I'm on the other side of the country now, living in my 6th US State, and just getting used to the view from here. Which happens to be excellent, as you can see.

Today's thought is Berries and How They Impact My Life.

For the past, oh, 17 years of my life September has meant one thing. SCHOOL SCHEDULE. Sometimes that adjusted itself back to August, due to the insanity of International School, Louisiana Schools and Texas Schools, but by September, the school schedule was my schedule. And for the last 10 years, add to it SWIM SCHEDULE, augmented for the last 7 years by High School Swim Schedule.

This year, I've been on Berry Schedule. With all the moving, and traveling, and college orienting, I've totally missed blueberry season and to some extent strawberry season, though that season has gone year round with imports. So strawberries don't count. I generally stash away blueberries every summer. Not so this summer. BUT...

We have BLACKBERRIES. Oh, do we have blackberries. We live in a neighborhood that uses blackberry bushes like Houston neighborhoods use fences. Our mailman is our new best friend because we cut back the blackberries that held our and our next door neighbor's boxes hostage.

So my day now goes like this:
I wake up when I wake up. NO alarm. No kid needing a ride to the pool at 5 am. No teacher needing a sub by 7:10 am. I go up to the road and fetch my Oregonian. Can't start my day without my newspaper in my hands. Online news doesn't cut it. I need to feel the goods. Cup or two of good strong coffee. Trader Joe's is working really well for me right now. Those of you who don't have a Trader Joe's, think about investing in a store. I've gone way too long (16 years) without a TJ's near by. And near by for me now is an hour away. But I digress. Turn on Morning Edition from the Portland NPR Station.

Maybe I'll eat a blackberry muffin or scone or whatever I've made with yesterday's catch. Then we grab the leash and the dog, and the water jug formerly used to hydrate a competitive swimmer now a continent away, and hit the road for our morning constitutional. At the end of our trek, we stop at our favorite roadside blackberry unruly monstrosity that is now encroaching well onto the pavement. We don't go home until the jug is full, a task which is taking longer and longer as the days go by. Tomorrow I think we'll take the long handled pruners so we can reach some of the fine specimens that would be accessible only to someone like Michael Phelps, with a 6 foot wing span.

So blackberries are occupying my mind...what to do with them? Thank God for Google. So far, I've made muffins, pie, scones, lemonade and blackberry infused vodka, as well as customized a cocktail recipe that's kind of like a fizzy mojito. But you'll have to come over and try that one...from the Mt. Hood View Deck. Today I made jam. So far, I like this!
More later....