A Memorial, not Memorial Day

Every year we start Memorial Day by throwing our lawn chairs in Amigo’s bike basket and hitting the road for half a block to stake our claim on a good place to watch the parade. Seriously, it’s half a block from our home.

And after the parade, we head back the half a block to our home. Home, to help out our “real live veteran in our front yard,” as Amigo put it. Father In Law doesn’t want to struggle down the street with his walker, so he often settled under our mock cherry tree and read a book. We gave him a little flag next to his lawn chair so he could be part of the festivities.
Our “real live veteran” passed away recently, and we laid him to rest today. In his possessions we found several letters he’d written to his parents when he was stationed in Japan during the Korean conflict. Some were typed, some were handwritten, and all were fascinating insights to what he was like as a young man.
Emails may be convenient, but do you keep them? A box labeled “War Mementos” was a journey into the past for our family.

Snow Day – Ice Day prep

We had an inkling that a day off might be in the works. Toward the end of the school day, we saw an email from downtown – the Powers That Be had cancelled all after school and evening events, and the morning wellness appointments had been rescheduled. I slid a little in the parking lot; the freezing rain had begun.

By the time I saw the announcement that our local schools would close the next day, I had already prepped for the possibility of power outages. Sometimes, the two go together. Ice, power outages, kind of like chocolate chips and cookies, Romeo and Juliet, or birds of a feather. It’s not a panic situation, but we’d rather not be forced to travel the slick roads in search of eggs or bread if the trip can be avoided.

Our pantry is pretty well stocked as a general rule. A quick stop for bunny food on the way home from work, and we can feed everyone under our roof.

Blankets: if the heat goes off, we’ll need to double up on blankets. We have plenty, and at any given time most are reasonably clean. Most.

Bean bag chairs. Just kidding – sort of. Amigo has several. Bean bag chairs plus blankets equal a cozy corner for relaxing and keeping warm.

Firewood: Bring in a good stack of dry or relatively dry wood. If the heat is off, we’ll huddle up in the den near the fireplace with bean bag chairs and blankets.

Charge everything that needs a charge. That’s probably the biggest challenge on the list. If I can’t plug anything in during or after a storm, I need to be ready to keep the major tools of life charged. To give you an idea, here’s a list.

  • Smart phones – three
  • Kindle
  • Laptop
  • FitBit (it keeps my vibrating alarm on time!)
  • Is that all? No, but those are the high priority items.

I don’t have a battery operated coffee maker. If we lived in a place where power outages were more common, I’d probably get one. A generator for the freezers would be useful, too. Our two chest freezers are full of vegetables from last summer and meat purchased on sale and a full stock of soup broths (haha). In a short outage, we just leave the freezers closed to maintain their temperatures.

So, folks, how did I spend my bonus day? Power stayed on. Heat stayed on. I relaxed on the couch, watched some HGTV and DIY (no news; after I had the closing confirmed, I didn’t want to see any more news), put a loaf of bread in the bread machine, cleaned a little, sipped my coffee, ran the dishwasher, and a whole batch of small chores. A day like this is a gift, when we’re prepared for it.

Goodbye, 2016. Hello, 2017.

“Happy” New Year? The inauguration of a horrible leader is looming. It’s not a happy start to 2017.

R.I.P. 2016 and all whom we lost during that time period. Some were elderly and ready to go. Some were *gasp* my age or close to it. How did George Michael get younger than me? Carrie Fischer was a few years older than I am, but not many. And Prince? The man seemed ageless, and his talent infinite.

Maybe we need to get used to seeing notable people die in, gulp, larger numbers. The entire Baby Boom population is in the AARP range now. Many are in and many are approaching social security age. Proportionately, the number of deaths will make sense. To our hearts and memories, those deaths strike us as significant.

Back to January 20. I’ve been sitting back and observing my activist friends. Don’t count out those progressive spirits who worked their tails off for Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. They took time to mourn after November 8, and then the grass roots began growing again. There’s already a sizable citizen action co-op operating in my area. Last time I heard, there were enough people committed to demonstrating in D.C. and in Madison that coach buses were being reserved. To prepare for the demonstrations, some are making pussy hats. Search the web for knitting and crocheting patterns if you want one. Grab that, DT.

Friends and colleagues admit to having trouble speaking or even typing Donald Trump’s name. Think about Harry Potter, my friends. He Who Shall Not Be Named or You-Know-Who – by not saying his name, they gave him power. With that in mind, folks, let’s not give Baby Hands or Cheetoh-head any more power than he deserves.

Let’s call him Voldemort.

The O.K. Chorale: Where the Wrapping Remains Green

If you think I’m a green freak (Amigo does), you may be right. But if you think my attitude toward wrapping paper minimizes the colors in the pile under the tree, you’d be wrong. Oh, well, maybe this isn’t the best picture. It illustrates the “before” pile rather well, though.

Gifts and wrapping

In case you think I’m obsessive about it, and you’d be correct, take a look at the second pile. From left to right: recyclable cardboard boxes, broken down; reusable ribbons and wrapping paper; gift bags ready for re-use. The garbage pile was so small, I didn’t bother with getting it into the photo.

Rabbit imitating a tribble on the right

In fact, we forgot to buy tape this year. We were down to the very last role.

A little time organizing, and we’ll be all set for next year. There will be no need to buy wrapping paper. Tape, yes. But no more paper, right family? Right?!

Readers, I’d love to hear more ways to green the holiday season. Please share.

Busy, Busy, Busy!

I haven’t posted lately because we’ve been – yep, you guessed it – very busy. Let’s skim the high points.

Chuck has a new job! He’s no longer making sure the news gets on the air. He is no longer driving and running and repairing live trucks and satellite trucks. He is now installing electrical components in brand new fire trucks. He’s been training for a week now, and it looks like this job is a fabulous fit for him. His official title is Electrician, Fire Truck Division.

Maybe he’ll actually enjoy the NFL playoffs this year instead of huddling in a corner crying out “No, no, don’t send me on the road again!”  

In other news, it’s Christmas concert season for Amigo and the barbershop chorus! He’s already sung in two shows in two weeks, and the third comes up in a few days. He looks very festive in his elf costume, and his sense of humor keeps rehearsals light.

For example, consider the following. Dress rehearsal at the restaurant that will host the Barbershop Bistro. Risers are set up, guys are in place, lights are adjusted. Director scans the chorus and asks, “Is there anyone who can’t see me?” Think on this for a minute.

Amigo, he of the white cane club, gleefully raised his hand. The chorus members were beside themselves with laughter. When I picked him up two hours later, the guys were still chuckling. He livens up a party, all right, my Amigo.

My holiday shopping spreadsheet is in place, and I’m filling in the blanks. Wrappings and trimmings and trappings are organized and ready for use. The Christmas music CD collection is accessible – those albums not on my desk at work, that is.

The O.K. Chorale is settled in for the remainder of December. The blog might even reflect that – when I have time.

Attitude. And a blind sense of humor.

I almost – almost – feel for the director of Amigo’s barbershop choir. But really, he set himself up for this one.

Director Man had the risers set up, the festive scenery in place, and the lights on the choir. He stepped back, looked over the group, and asked, “Is there anyone who can’t see me?”

Without a pause, Amigo raised his hand, the hand not holding his white cane, and the choir erupted with laughter.

They were still chuckling when I arrived to pick him up two hours later. Spark plug, indeed. They’ll have a hard time picking a new recipient for that award!

Amigo in his Elf costume

Amigo in his Elf costume

Fun with Canning Jars

The project started like this.

Jars from estate auction

Jars from estate auction

Then we gave the dishwasher a try.

They all fit!

They all fit!

Almost all came out clean. Those that didn’t, well, I might scrub or soak them, or I might just use them for something other than food preservation.

Then we visited one of my favorite vintage and antique stores. I saw all kinds of ways to use canning jars – other than canning.

What is the candle sitting in? More wax?

What is the candle sitting in? More wax? I have marbles. I could do the one on the left.

Simple. Clean them up, surround them with greenery.

Simple. Clean them up, surround them with greenery.

And people are charging amazing amounts of money for these. To give you an idea, the two blue jars surrounded by pretty green decorative wreaths were priced at about the same amount of money that I paid for the entire table full (see top of post).

I can do this. The only question is – will I do it? Will I make the time to do it?

Stay tuned, readers. Daisy has a project in mind.

Cranberry Sauce – Daisy’s Way

1-2-3 Cranberry Sauce

1 cup water
2 cups sugar
3 cups cranberries

Bring to a boil, then simmer 20 minutes or until all the berries have burst. Add cinnamon to taste. Serve warm.

Now, the backstory. I brought this recipe home from kindergarten on a sheet of construction paper. We made it at home since it was so easy. It became a standard at Thanksgiving dinner, the tradition lasting long after the original paper faded.
A generation later, my kids started helping me make it every year. If we have leftover cranberry sauce, I use it in jello or add it to muffins. This little piece of my “saucy” childhood continues, along with Thanksgiving memories that will never fade.

Have a wondering Thanksgiving, readers.

Excuses for the Things I Haven’t Done List

It’s sort of like a to-do list. I’ve accomplished a lot in getting the garden put away for the winter, but there’s still a great deal left to be done.There’s always an excuse, er, a reason, though. Let’s see.

Drain the rain barrels. But it’s still warm enough that there’s no danger of freezing. I use the rain barrel water to rinse out the litter boxes and the kitchen compost containers. Can’t I keep the rain barrels running for a little while longer? (she says plaintively)

Take out the last tomato plants.

It's a jungle out there.

It’s a jungle out there.

Cut back the flowers, such that they are. This is a low priority task. If I don’t do it, the small furry creatures will do it when winter sets in for real. 

Spread compost. This is an ongoing task. I’d rather spread it now than in the spring, but I can do this in the spring if need be. But if I don’t do it now, will there be room in the compost bins for the winter’s kitchen scraps? Well? 

Plant the walking onion bulbs I procured through foraging. It’s okay. I had permission. If I plant these now, they’ll come up in spring with little or no help. But before I put the bulbettes in where I want them, I have to weed that space. Yes, folks, it’s true. I need to weed the garden in November. Do you see why I’m procrastinating? 

Trim the lemon basil plant. This plant isn’t happy indoors. Maybe it needs a trim and a grow light. Maybe I should just cut it off and hang dry it, once and for all. 

Take a load of cast-offs to a thrift store. The pile I call the “Next Goodwill Load” is overflowing the laundry basket that holds it. But first, I really wanted to empty a couple more drawers. It’ll make room for hiding birthday and Christmas gifts.

Speaking of gift shopping, I need to get my annual spreadsheet in place. Ugh. It’s a necessary evil. Keeping track of what I’ve already bought will help prevent overspending. And since I started shopping in August – hey, don’t roll your eyes. Art in the Park (a local summer art festival) is one of my favorite shopping opportunities.

Rake leaves. It’s windy out. That’s enough, isn’t it?

But seriously, I’ve gotten a lot done recently. I cleaned out the main garden plot and the plot behind the garage. I’ve stirred both compost bins and added water to the smaller one to keep it from drying out. Rain barrel water, in fact. I’ve kept up with bunny’s litter boxes, and I add those to the garden soil, too.

Most important task of all: I voted. I voted early at City Hall. That’s a deep sigh of relief.

Readers, have you voted yet? All the other tasks can wait.

Goals, goals, goals and resolutions.

My school-related goals get set in August, as the agrarian calendar puts the school year in place. The arrival of the New Year, the number change in the ones place, is a whole different animal.

Goals with gimmicks are most likely to catch the attention of readers in the blogosphere. Remember A Year of Slow Cooking? A blogger decided to use her slow cooker every day for a full year. I use mine a lot, but 365 continuous days would be unrealistic. The standard weight loss and nutrition goals always suggest themselves. Household chores – clean more often, clean more thoroughly – those go on the “should” list. Gardening chores – aren’t chores, really. Garden goals are enjoyable. Some of those plans get set in the fall, too. I planted onion and garlic bulbs in October. With this odd El Nino winter, who knows what will happen?

But back to goals.

We have a saying in our family: Progress in Baby Steps. To make progress on any goal, small steps are the way to go. Take my garden and canning hobbies for examples. I started growing tomatoes and a few other plants I’d bought as seedlings in the spring. The plot got bigger, and I expanded into growing a few plants from seed. One year I started tomato and pepper plants from seed – and the rest is history. But if I’d started a large plot totally from seed in the first years, it’s likely I’d have gotten poor results. Canning, too. That first batch of raspberry jam in Green Girl’s kitchen certainly was the “gateway drug” to putting up more and more. We haven’t bought commercially made jam, salsa, or pickles in years.

In that light, no big goals for January 1st. I might set short term goals and attempt short term projects. I’ll blog some of those, in particular if those short term goals are successful and lead to long term results.

Readers, what are your plans for New Year’s Goals and Resolutions?