Thursday, May 31, 2012

Oh, I Love That Smell

Barbara's mention of Proust's madelines reminded me of how powerful a smell can be in invoking memories. I was thinking of some of my favorite smells and here they are:

  • There's a smell that I haven't experienced in years, and it's a combination of old-fashioned sun tan lotion and snack bar grilling hot dogs grease. Oh, that is the smell of summer to me.
  • I love to smell dill and will stop to sniff it in the grocery store. My grandmother had this big dill bush that she used to make pickles and I loved to do a face plant in it as a little girl. It was as tall as I was and I loved both the smell and the tickly feeling of the dill against my face.
  • I love the smell of bleach. Even now when I do laundry, I'll take a sniff. If I've bleached a load, I love the wet bleach smell of the clothes when they're done.
  • The Body Shop used to have a seaweed soap that I loved and used for a number of years and every morning in the shower it was like being on an ocean beach. Of course, they discontinued it, and I've never found a seaweed/ocean/beach soap that actually smells like that.
  • Of course, there's lavendar.
  • I don't experience it much in the city, but when I was in Ohio, I smelled freshly cut grass which is so sweet and clean.
  • I also don't experience this much, but I would actually love to have a clothesline since I love the smell of clothes dried in the sun.
And you?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Happy Birthday, Judy!

Judy is Mary's sister and sometimes I feel as if the Universe made a mistake in making Mary my best friend, and not Judy, since Mary and I honestly disagree on so many things. Mary likes her coffee so strong you can stand a spoon up in it (always quoting Mom Lois who famously said, "There's no such thing as strong coffee; only weak people." Well, I'm one of those weak people who likes my coffee the color of dark tea. Don't get me started on Mary's love affair with salmon. Yuck.

Judy and I love reality TV and can dish for hours about it. Mary makes fun of us -- although I think we are getting her over to the dark side. She has recently talked to me about two shows she watches. If Mary goes to a movie, it will be about a blind orphan who loses what little he has in a typhoon including his legs but becomes a ballroom dancer -- and it will be in Portuguese with subtitles.  Mary will say, "It was so inspirational -- you should try it." Uh, no thanks.

So, for my other best friend, the one with good taste in movies and tv shows, Happy Birthday!

my apologies for this one, but the chest hair is mesmerizing.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Barbara's Garden Tour

Let's all get off the bus, and we're at Barbara's country house in Connecticut and here's her garden tour.

The first picture is of my perennial garden by the side of the house leading to the front door. We have lots of shade, so what grows best here are bleeding hearts in the front, I think you can still see some of the blooms in the picture -- they were very nice this year. Among other plants in the back there are astilbes and thalactrum, which will start blooming next month.

By the front door I have pots planted with coleus. A few years back I planted pretty impatiens in these pots, which thrived in the shade, but unfortunately the deer ate them all down to the roots. So for the last couple years I've looked for the various colorful coleus.

Down the side of the driveway the ferns are doing very well.

On the other side of the house, the lily-of-the-valley have completely taken over; my late mother-in-law planted these probably 60 years ago. They bloom late up here in northwest CT, we had them up until last week. If the windows on that side of the house are open when they are in flower, their smell fills the house. In the foreground of this picture I think you can see a wild buttercup -- they are very pretty so I let them be.

Across the little run-off stream, which is the edge of our property, our neighbors let their large meadow grow unchecked through the spring and early summer. I think nature is the best gardener of us all.

Pat again: Now I want to sit outside with a garden hose on my feet, drinking lemonade, and talking about nothing. The naturalization of the meadow reminds me of when I would buy all different colors of impatiens and then become obsessed with the order of the colors -- two pinks, one salmon, a red, two whites, repeat... until (again) I even annoyed myself. My solution was to take all the impatiens out of their containers, remove all color sticks and plant them randomly so I didn't even know which color was going where and I was always so pleased with the natural look of the result.

P.S. I was thinking how wonderful it would be to be remembered for a field of lillies of the valley. So much better than being remembered for the good china, or the crystal platter.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Happy Birthday, Phil!

In the year Phil was born, here's what things cost:

Average Cost of new house $3,450
Average wages per year $1,600
Cost of a gallon of Gas 10 cents
Average Cost for house rent $22.00 per month
A loaf of Bread 8 cents
A pound of hamburger meat cost 11 cents
Average New Car Price $625

Also born the same year as Phil:

Jerry Lee Lewis
Julie Andrews

Luciano Pavarotti
Gary Player
Woody Allen
Sonny Bono
Dalai Lama
Elvis Presley

We won't divulge his age, but here are some clues:

Happy Birthday, Phil and many happy returns!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

My Garden Work in Progress

Here's the garden. I was looking today at the chair cushions and how sun-faded they are and I always protest, "But I JUST bought them!" but they are probably 3 or 4 years old. I do take them in for the winter, but they are basically outside from April to November. Gee, you'd think they'd last forever, right?

These are all the baby seedlings that self-seed from the morning glories. The small heart-shaped seedlings are morning glories, and by mid-summer they will have grown over the entire fence. By September, sometimes there are dozens of morning glories blooming.

The big vine is clematis and the one down at the end is a honeysuckle bush which hasnt bloomed yet. That wood wall is the one that will be covered with morning glories.

These steps definitely need more work. The thing at the foot of the steps on the right is a drain. One item that DOES last forever is the hose hanging on the fence. It's a Flexogen and it's been left out for a number of winters and is still in perfect shape. A gift from a long-gone lover -- he's gone, but his hose remains. Ahem.

I become mesmerized by fire escapes and how people could actually get out of a burning building and end up in my garden.  This is the back of my building, and the scenic view from sitting in the garden.

These will grow bigger and look lusher. If you look in the top one, you'll see a little garden fairy. I don't usually buy stuff like that, but I bought a set of five or six of them -- some have broken, but I do get a kick out of half-hiding them, not so open as in this pot, and they do look real sometimes.

I forgot the name of this plant -- but it's grown a lot. This are will also have morning glories -- I move them over from the other part, and they grow up the brick wall, then up the fire escape.
The good news is I don't have to paint the floor or the stairs, but I do need a bunch more plants. The fences are new as of last year, and I am glad to see they are getting a little weathered looking so that new lumber yard look is going away. 

Milo's Sunday

This is Milo sleeping on the new purse that Mary bought yesterday.

Friday, May 25, 2012

More on Gardens

These are Mary's dahlias which she bought for her garden. As for mine, it was supposed to be finished by Ray, the handyman, while I was in Ohio. When I got home, there was some work, but it wasn't finished. Or at least I hoped he wasn't finished. I hesitated to call him to ask because it sounded accusatory. He just now called me to say he has had to work extra shifts and said, "I really want to be there because working in your garden is so peaceful to me" which struck me as really genuine. He has all sort of plans of things he wants to do which is more like the man I know. So my own garden continues to be a work in progress. He has to work all weekend, but we're having rain all weekend anyway. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Rain Rain Go Away

We have been inundated with rain all week, and today it was coming down in buckets. Everything feels damp. There was a thunderstorm this morning where a clap of thunder was so close I must have jumped two feet out of my chair. Don't know what the weekend holds in terms of weather, but hopefully we'll see that big yellow ball in the sky again one of these days.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fran's Art

Fran writes: Mary's beautiful peonies inspired a watercolor started in class last week and finished off on rainy Wed afternoon.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My Dinner with Barbara

In the summer, Barbara's schedule is such that we do dinner instead of our monthly lunch. Tonight was our first dinner of the summer season, and we chose Gracie's, our favorite Greek coffee shop.  It's just two blocks from where I live, right at the corner of 86th and First Avenue. Here's the view from my seat, awaiting Barbara's arrival:

Here's the interior. It was empty for the most part when we arrived, but people were waiting for tables when we left.

Barbara ordered her usual: a hot turkey sandwich. This photo really doesn't do it justice. It was a mound of thinly sliced white meat, with gravy and fresh parsley.

And here are Barbara's sides: broccoli, mashed potatoes and the little container of cranberry sauce.

I was indecisive and finally went with scrambled eggs soft and bacon, home fries....

and a toasted bagel on the side for me.

It was an odd night. If you were moving fast or walking, it was clammy and muggy. If you were just sitting still on your steps, as I was here, it was cool and damp. A pleasant evening.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety-Jig

I woke up this morning at 6:35, looked at the clock, closed my eyes again -- and I didn't even think I was asleep but a few seconds later, it was 8:45 -- you know when you have no sense that time has passed? It didn't matter since I didn't have a particular schedule. The beautiful weather had disappeared and it was raining and cold. I was two hours out of NY with about 1/8 of a tank of gas. It would take me about an hour of driving to get to the last rest stop on the New Jersey turnpike where I buy gas for the rental car -- and unless the traffic is horrible, I can make it back to the rental car place with the tank still on Full.

Having grown older and wiser, I decided I'd just have to stop for gas opposed to seeing if I could stretch it -- first to get enough gas to make it to New Jersey and then to get the rental car on Full. It was raining and I wasn't looking forward to gassing up and I checked out of the hotel and just went to the first gas station I found. I was surprised to see a sign that said "full service" on one of the pumps so I went to that one, not really believing.

But, sure enough, a really nice man came out and I said to him that I didn't think there were any full-service places left and he said that he knows of three others in the area. I don't think I'd seen one in a long time. I can't say it was exactly full service -- no window cleaning -- remember when they'd check your oil? but I didn't care and I was glad I didn't have to stand in the rain.

Traffic wasn't bad, turned the car in, still raining, came home and all is well. When I got in the car this morning, I was sorry in a way to have this trip end. I really do enjoy my road trips.

So tonight when I turned on the TV, the remote control wasn't working well. It could mute, turn on and off, change the volume, but when I tried to change stations, the channel identifier would show on the screen as the next channel, but the actual channel would not change. I fussed and fiddled with it and then decided to call Time Warner Cable.

Got through surprisingly fast. Got a young guy who knew what the problem was which is that my signal needed recharging. Ok. He did the hocus pocus and the screen went dark, came back on and all was well. He then tried nicely to upsell me to the "triple play" of cable, phone and internet.

Right now, I pay about $108 for cable, which includes $12.95 for HBO. He asked me why I have HBO and I said to see Bill Maher and he said, "That's what everyone says." We agreed that the offerings on HBO aren't that great. I told him I was too old for porn and didn't like boxing, and he said, "That covers a lot of HBO." I pay about $65 for unlimited phone service with Verizon, and I pay $50 a month for my mobile WiFi, which I still would want to keep.

I told him honestly that I resisted it based on not wanting to pay twice for Internet and also I didn't like the idea of all my eggs in one basket. He offered me a guarantee of $125.19 a month for one year, but couldn't say what it would go to. He did point out that the cable and phone alone, forgetting about the Internet, would save me money.

He said that he'd give me free voice mail for a year which would then be $3.95/month. He said Time Warner would call Verizon (stupidly, that really appealed to me) and that I'd keep the same phone number. There is an overlap of two days where somehow my phone would be served both by the old Verizon and the new Time Warner.

I told him I still had to think about it, but I have his name and extension number so if I decide to do it, he will get credit for the sale. His extension is a seven-digit number and I joked with him that it sounds like a prisoner number and said, "are you a prisoner?" He said, "Only for 8 hours a day" which I thought was a fairly clever response. I might do this -- I didn't say this to Daniel (the Time Warner guy) but I really am not positively disposed to Time Warner -- for no reason I can name. I would say that for the most part they've been very responsive and I've been as trouble free as possible. Also, I hate change.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Almost Home

I really could have gone all the way home today as I got to the hotel at 4 and I'm two hours away, but I didn't. My knee was beginning to hurt having been in the same position for seven hours and I'd sort of had it. There is no reason whatsoever why I need to be home tonight. In fact, I probably would have faced tremendous weekend traffic. One nice thing is that Ray the Handyman was supposed to finish my garden while I was gone so I'm looking forward to seeing that.

So here are the highlights of today's trip from Medina, Ohio, to Allentown, Pennsylvania:

So I remain fascinated by the drive-thru check in which also means drive-thru check out which makes for an easy departure.

Here's drive-thru check out and you can see the bank-teller style window on the left.

This is a fairly typical view for most of the day today -- Northern Ohio and Pennsylvania are much hillier than Southern Ohio -- very pretty, although a bunch of road kill, mainly deer.

Rolling east toward New York,

There were three basic wildflowers. A white bushy plant; these purple flowers and then the yellow ones I had seen yesterday. They really do look pretty as you drive along. When I had stopped in one of those truck travel stops on the way here, an employee had put a bunch of the purple flowers in the women's restroom and I was thinking how most bosses, I think, don't appreciate how much care the average worker bee brings to their job.

This is to show the yellow wildflowers along the road.

This one is for Mary -- this is right by the exit you'd take for the town where Mary grew up.

My room for tonight -- the view from the bed. Tomorrow I'll be home by late morning. My one regret for not going home is that this hotel doesn't have AMC so I'll miss Mad Men tonight, but I'll be able to see it during the week.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Heading Home

Finished my work stint around 3, was on the road at 3:13. Hotel was four hours away. Very easy drive, basically the same highway North.

This is the basic view for four hours.

I saw a lot of these fields full of these yellow flowers. Couldn't figure out if it were some sort of crop or just wildflowers. I think it's just some beautiful weed in that I saw a bunch of horses grazing in one of the fields and I don't think they'd allow that if it were a crop. Really lovely sight, though.

This is Columbus, Ohio, which is the exception to the "same view for four hours" rule.

But soon, it's back to the same view for four hours. When I arrived at the exit for my hotel -- at first I couldn't find it, and then when I did, you couldn't get there from here. It was one of those cases where you can see the hotel but can't figure out the road to get there. Then when I finally got to the hotel, I couldn't find the office to check in. Then I saw a sign... "Drive Thru Check in" -- that's something I've never seen before, but it was pretty cool, just like a drive-thru bank where the window/sleeve opens and I put my credit card in there and got back my card with a paper on a clipboard to sign and that was that. This place is pretty much a dump, but it's clean and appears safe. I'm in Medina, Ohio.

Here's the room, and I'm lying on this very bed, right now, typing and soon will be writing a news release.

Here's the rest of the room with a flat screen tv (but not many good channels), the luggage rack, a safe and the sink. The toilet/tub is in a separate room.

And here's the view out my window. That's my car for this week. Onward for seven hours tomorrow and then a fairly quick trip Monday morning to be home. Yes, I could make it in one longer day, but I have finally learned that there are no medals for endurance typically.