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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

New Windows

New Windows

I decided to take the big plunge.  It was time to get new windows.  I had been searching for a contractor and keeping an eye on the prices.  As the weather got colder, the deals got better and better.  I would be a fool to wait until spring.

I chose Parma Windows to do the job.  They gave me a very good price because they wanted a 21-window job in December.  

I knew I was doing the right thing, but I dreaded it.  My biggest concern was Thunder.  I knew the poor little guy would be terrified.  The other problem--Maggie.  She is seldom a well-behaved dog when there are visitors.

I should have also been concerned about the weather.  Little did I know that they would end up doing the job on the coldest days of the year.

It was going to take 3 days.  To me, that was 3 days of torture.  Thunder went into hiding the moment the dog started barking.  I let the first guy who showed up start bringing stuff in.  He said they were going to start at the top--and that is where I thought Thunder was.  I had opened my closet a bit and set him up a box with a blanket.  

He wasn’t there for long.  About a half hour later, there was a break in the action and I saw him slink into the basement.

That day, I don’t think it got much warmer than 20 degrees.  It wasn’t too bad because they were doing the bedrooms, and they would keep the doors closed.  I literally tethered Maggie up to me by tying her leash around my leg.  Every Time someone would walk by or make a loud noise, she would bark.  It was a long day.  No Thunder and too much Maggie.

They worked non-stop and called it a day at 4:00.  I took Maggie for a walk and then waited for Thunder.  He appeared about an hour later, and he was very upset.

The next day, the high was supposed to be 12 degrees with high winds and lake effect snow.  They cancelled.  That was a relief for me.  It gave Thunder a chance to settle down a bit.  He is a very sensitive cat, and he can’t tolerate chaos, at all.

Our reprieve was over at 8:00 AM the following day.  This time, they were doing the big picture windows in the living room and dining room and the kitchen window--as well as finishing the rest of them.  The high was 15 degrees.

With nowhere upstairs to go, Maggie and I hid in the basement with my computer, book and electric blanket.  She still did a lot of barking, but not as bad as before.  I assumed Thunder was down there, somewhere, too.  He was hiding even before they arrived.  He must have sensed it when he saw me moving things around.

It was a very long and cold day.  I couldn’t believe they finished the job.  It was supposed to take 3 days, and it only took 2.  They had a big incentive to do it quickly--the guys were freezing.  So I guess I got lucky that the weather was so cold.  

The house is noticeably more comfortable.  It is no longer drafty by the windows and the furnace goes on much less often.  I can’t wait to see my gas bill--not the next one, but the one after that.  

The house looks so much better, too.

Book Review: "Get Shorty" by Elmore Leonard

Book Review: "Get Shorty" by Elmore Leonard

I love Elmore Leonard books, but I must say that this one disappointed me.  It took place in Hollywood, where a loan shark travels to get a payment from a customer who skipped out of town.  He thought that his story might make a good film, so he gets involved with a producer and some actors.  They have their own script they want to make into a movie.  Some other guys got involved who wanted to make the movie, too.

The plot was rather convoluted and I had trouble following it much of the time.  Nothing dragged me into the story, so I tended to only read a little at a time, so that made it even harder to follow the plot.  His character development wasn't near as good as previously, and there was very little tension to keep me interested.

Long ago, I saw the movie and I wasn't impressed with that, either.

I rate this one--big disappointment.

Winter has Arrived

Winter has Arrived


We were regularly riding out on the trail and having a great time.  Then, the weather started getting cold.  As is inevitable, the river started to freeze.  Fine, we can just ride on the hill.  Then we had some warm weather mixed with cold weather; causing the driveway to freeze into a sheet of ice.  If that wasn’t bad enough, it got reallly cold, followed by a heat spike which brought a lot of rain on top of all the snow--then the temps plummeted.  We now have an icy driveway, an icy hill and the banks of the river have piles of huge ice chunks that washed up when the flooding broke up the river. The river is freezing over, again, too.

We are officially stuck at the barn.  I can’t even ride out on the loop because of the ice.

It is now time to concentrate on our arena work.  Sigh…

My first 2 rides in the arena with Cole didn’t go very well.  My third ride felt like I was riding a stick of dynamite.  I only trotted a few times because he exploded into the trot.  We just walked about and did tricks.  By the time we were done, I was able to trot a couple controlled steps at a time.  I quit while I was ahead, untacked him and watched him run and jump about.  I guess I should have done that first.

The next time I tried again, I did have him run and play, first.  It paid off.  He felt like a normal horse.We just reviewed where we left off last year.  He seemed to remember it all, and I was very happy with that ride.

I did discover why dressage people love to do shoulder in so often.  Don’t listen to them about suppling.  Remember how I would get nervous on the far end?  When he is hyper, if I trot out of that corner down towards our barn door, he would try to take off for our door.  I tried doing a shoulder in after that corner and it worked like magic.  I felt brave because his head was already bent to the inside--so I could circle him with ease if he tried any shenanigans, and he was focused on the exercise I was asking instead of bad thoughts.  Being a clicker-trained horse, once he knew what I wanted, he had all the more reason to perform it well instead of going of on a literal tangent.  

Since then, he has been fairly well behaved in the arena.  We continue to review old work and try to have as much fun as possible.  Of course, we much prefer to be on the trail.

Ellen lets me ride Dante in the arena a few days a week, too.  I haven’t ridden him regularly in there since she broke her ankle, years ago.  He is so much better, now.  There is nothing to be frightened about riding him, inside.  The worst that he will do is stall out and not want to go forward.  He trots so smooth--it is dreamlike.  Dante is super responsive and very agile.  His legs never get tangled up like Cole’s can at the trot.  He does lack consistent lateral moves, and that is something I can work on with him this winter.

The only thing that can rescue us from the arena right now is a huge thaw or a huge snowstorm to cover up all the ice.  I prefer the thaw, of course.  Until that happens, we will just make the best of it.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Book Review: “Dr. Breen’s Practice” by William Dean Howells

Book Review: “Dr. Breen’s Practice” by William Dean Howells

Another masterpiece in realism.  This book, written in 1881, portrays the very first female doctor in American literature.  Shortly after graduating from medical school, she takes a vacation with a sick friend that she is tending.  The experience causes her to doubt her abilities as a woman, to be a doctor--both in experience and temperament.

The novel involves romance and a little bit of adventure, but as always, Howells captures a slice of American life.  The peripheral characters are very entertaining, and I think that was the best part.


Score another one for Howells.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Book Review: “Dick Francis’s Damage” by Felix Francis

Book Review: “Dick Francis’s Damage” by Felix Francis

I really enjoy Dick Francis’s books, and I am so glad that Felix Francis has taken up the reins after his father’s death.  This book is just as good as any of the Dick Francis’s books.

This time, the protagonist is an investigator for the race tracks through the BHA.  All kinds of bad things start happening in the racing world, and our hero must get to the bottom of it.  We learn all about investigating techniques and the ins and outs of how tracks are run.


Enjoyable as always.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Book Review: “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen

Book Review: “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen

I have been a Bruce fan--since forever.  No other music resonates with my like his has through the decades.  When I heard he wrote an autobiography, it didn’t take long for Kevin to acquire a copy of it to give to me as a gift.  

More like a series of essays put in chronological order, he explores all aspects of his music and his life--and how is life affects his music.  Much of it is written in a lyrical manner--making it a joy to read.  

I was surprised to find out how much he suffered from his father’s severe depression, and later how he suffered from his own.  

Much to my satisfaction, he clearly explained why he broke up with the E Street Band for the first time.  It made sense.  I finally forgave him.  I am so glad he did end up back with them.  If you ever have a chance to see them, even if you aren’t a big fan, their concerts are truly transcendent.

I found out that his daughter isn’t the only horse person in the family.  He ended up getting a horse, too, and through many bumps and bruises, learned how to ride.

I wish he would have gone into more details about his more current albums--some of them I feel are just as masterful as his more famous, earlier albums, but that is my only complaint about the book.


If you are a Boss fan, this book is a must read.

Book Review: “The Kentons” by William Dean Howells

Book Review: “The Kentons” by William Dean Howells

I love reading Howells’ books.  They are very realistic and take me back a century.  His characters are so real and ordinary.  They are regular people living regular lives; making decisions and suffering or enjoying the consequences.

“The Kentons” is a story about a young lady who is involved in a relationship that goes awry.  Her family, in order to help her to get away from the man, takes her from her home in Ohio to New York City and then abroad.  I feel the heart of the story is how her parents want to help her, but are so unsure what to do.  Her sister and brother add a quietly comical aspect to the story.


I love his books, and this one is just as entertaining as the rest.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Super Dooper Easy Pumpkin Butter

Super Dooper Easy Pumpkin Butter

This is so easy, it is a joke.  I was cooking up a pumpkin to freeze for later use, and thought I would look up how to make Pumpkin Butter in a crockpot.  I saw some fairly complex recipes by my standards, and then I found an easy one.  Since I didn’t have all the ingredients, I made it even easier.  I didn't know how it would turn out, but it was as good as any I have ever eaten, before.

About 5 pounds of pumpkin
1 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of cinnamon

Peel and cube pumpkin.
Place a layer of pumpkin on bottom of crockpot.
Sprinkle some of the sugar and cinnamon on top
Keep adding layers until crock pot is ¾ full
Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours
Mix with electric mixer
Enjoy


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Book Review: “Longshot” by Dick Francis

Book Review: “Longshot” by Dick Francis

I have loved Dick Francis novels since I was a kid.  Horses and mysteries.  What better combination is there?  I think I may have read this book in my youth, but I am blessed with forgetfulness.  I remembered absolutely nothing, so I enjoyed it just as much.

As always, with Dick Francis, he mixes horses with something else.  This time, it was training steeplechasers with a writer of survival guides.  The writer will need all of his survival skills in this novel.

It is as fast paced as a steeplechase, and I enjoyed it immensely.  I think I will read some more Dick Francis with my extra time this winter.



Thursday, November 17, 2016

Tomatillo Sauce

Tomatillo Sauce

4 cups tomatillo
¾ cup sugar

Slice tomatillos.  Add sugar.  Cook in microwave on high for about 10 mimutes.

Tastes great.  Can be used for whatever you would use a sweet, fruity sauce.  I love it mixed in plain yogurt.


If you are low on tomatillos, add apples or zuchinni.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Book Review: “The Heart of the World” by Ian Baker

Book Review: “The Heart of the World” by Ian Baker

I love a good adventure story; particularly if it is true.  In Tibet, there was a legend of a large waterfalls in Tsangpo Gorge.  Author, Ian Baker, Ian Baker, was intrigued by it and set out to discover it.

Baker interweaves the history of the area, ancient accounts of the waterfall and how to get there and the stories of those who attempted and failed to find it.  We learn all about the Buddhist belief of reaching a place called Yangsang; a paradise on earth.  The waterfall is supposed to be a gateway to Yangsang.  Is it real?  

Baker chronicles several journeys into the area; climaxing with a race to reach the waterfall before a Chinese exploration party gets there first.  The hardships they endured, from near constant rain, dangerous crossing across the gorge, sheer cliffs and leeches--lots of leeches, kept me enthralled.  


I loved this book.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

My Softball Days

My Softball Days

Watching the Cleveland Indians in the World Series brought back some old memories.

Long ago and far away, I ventured into the world to team sports.  I was never athletically inclined.  In fact, I was a team sport disaster in my youth.  I grew up in a neighborhood that consisted of my sister and best friend, Bonnie.  We didn’t make up much of a sports league.  When we tried to play baseball, we had very small teams and had to keep track of many “ghost men.”

I didn't have much of a chance to learn sports, and even in gym class, I didn’t catch on.  We would play kick ball, and on a good day, when they chose teams, I would be the second last person chosen.  I would go way out in the outfield and hope that no one would kick a ball in my direction.  The bad part of that was when one would escape everyone and go flying down the field into the playground and beyond.  I would have to be the one chasing it and bringing it back.  I will never forget the day I caught a ball.  It fell in my arms, and I just stood there stunned.

I must have been in 6th grade when my elementary school had an after school softball league.  I don’t even know how it was possible that I joined it.  My mother didn’t drive, and my dad worked odd shifts.  It was seldom that I could get a ride home if I didn’t take the bus.  Walking was out of the question because I lived on a very busy street with no sidewalks.  Some friend of mine must have had a kind parent.

Anyway, I found myself on a softball league.  I don’t know how the teams were chosen, but once they were, a captain had to be picked.  One of the teachers in charge chose me to be the captain on my team.  I was shocked, but did the best I could.

I often wonder why that teacher picked me.  I don’t remember who it was, so I don’t know if she realized that I was a poor athlete that usually was chosen last because no one wanted me.  Did she feel sorry for me?  Did she think that this would give me a chance to shine?  Did she actually think I would be a good captain?  Did she know that it would mean a lot to me?

The captains didn’t have that many responsibilities, but we did have to make the big decisions like figuring out the team’s lineup and figuring out where the players should play.  I understood how baseball worked quite well, even if I couldn’t catch a ball.  Back then, I was a big Indians fan and listened to the games all summer on the radio.  Rarely, I would have a chance to see them on TV.  

I couldn’t hit a ball very far, but for some reason, I rather consistently hit base hits.  When the season was over, I was surprised to realize I was batting over 300.  When the other team was up, I would borrow a mitt; which didn’t even fit--yes, I didn’t even own my own mitt--and go out far into the outfield and pray that the ball wouldn’t come out to me.  I could barely catch a softball; having so little practice using a mitt.

By some miracle, my team came in first in the league.  I like to think it was my managerial skills, and maybe it was.  Just because I wasn’t good at sports didn’t mean I couldn’t make good decisions.  The winning team got the ultimate prize at the end of the season.  We got to play the final game against the teachers.  Everyone else would be watching.  I was so proud of our team, and I wanted so much for them to beat the teachers.  Everyone wanted to play in that game, and I had to choose the lineup, of course.  In order to win, I realized that the person with a borrowed mitt that didn't fit and couldn’t catch a ball with it shouldn’t be playing the game.  I made the ultimate sacrifice and stayed on the sidelines--directing the game.  Isn’t that what managers do?  I was so proud when we won the game.

The experience didn’t launch my career in sports.  I never joined another league in any sort, again.  I was still picked last for teams in gym.  I hear they don’t do that anymore, and I sure hope that is true.  It did boost my confidence in other aspects in my life, though, I’m sure.  I never hesitated when given the opportunity for leadership roles, and I always felt I did my best.  


I did turn out to be a rather athletic person, but not in team sports.  I need activities that I can learn at my own pace, such as, horseback riding.  It is not unusual for me to hike for hours a day, too.  I still don’t know if I could catch a ball with a mitt...

Shadow Darner

Shadow Darner

I was out walking Maggie on the park by myself; enjoying a good book.  Yes, I read when I walk, and I never trip and fall.  It is the only way I know how to read without getting sleepy.  I end up going on longer walks, because of it--something that is good for both Maggie and me.

The book I am reading on my walks it “The Heart of the World” by Ian Baker.  It is the true story about the author’s journeys in Tibet looking for a legendary waterfall in an inaccessible Tibetan Tsangpo Gorge.

The Tibetan Buddhist believe there are difficult and wonderful places hidden in Tibet where a person can go on a spiritual quest to find enlightenment.  Not only are these places most wonderful, but they offer a portal into the hidden world--the one that is there that we can’t see.

I got to a particularly lovely spot of the park where I closed the book to walk and enjoy the scenery, and pondered what I read.  If there is a hidden realm invisible to us?  Is it possible that we wouldn't have to risk our lives by wandering in Tibet.  Couldn’t it be right before our eyes, and we merely need to look harder?

At that moment, I heard a noise by the vernal pool that I was passing.  I glanced over and saw a large dragonfly chase off another.  Now, this was the summer of the dragonfly for me.  On my travels, I searched for dragonflies and learned to identify them.  Some were cooperative and would sit on a branch for me, so I could get a good look at it.  The larger ones would cruise around so fast that I could barely make out their markings.

Just a few hours, previous, I was out hiking with Kevin near the Rocky River Nature Center to see the new steps they installed on Fort Hill.  I was lamenting that we no longer see dragonflies.  Little did I know I would see one more before winter.

Now, here is the special thing about this dragonfly.  I walked over to get a good look at him, and he just hovered in place.  I said, “Hello,” to him and got as close as I could.  He let me stand just a foot from him for well over a minute.  I looked him over the top and side to side.  What a gorgeous insect!  He had a blue head, dark body, stripes on his tale and two hash marks on each side.  He then flew away and circled about the pool until I couldn't see him any longer.

As soon as I got home, I looked into my guidebook that I got from the Ohio Division of Natural Resources and easily identified him as a Shadow Darner.  Their flight period is from July 4 to November 6.  This was on November 2, so it really was one of my last chances to see one.

Is there a hidden realm for us to find?  Do we need to travel to remote and mysterious places to find it?  Or can we just open our eyes to the amazing things around us right in our own backyards?  My visit with the dragonfly saved me a trip to Tibet.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

One More Week of Growing Season

One More Week of Growing Season


We still haven’t had a frost at my house.  I have never had a garden go into November like this.  Not that there is much in it, anymore.  There still is no frost or freeze on the horizon.

Here is my volunteer pumpkin.  It is nearly ripe.  I have one more harvest of lima beans and I should have a ton of tomatillos when I do my last picking. I am trying to come up with a recipe for tomatillo sauce.  Most people make salsa out of them, but I am trying to come up with a sweet dessert.  The last batch I made was way too sweet, and I had to mix it with plain yogurt to thin it out.  The tomatillos themselves were great.  I just added too much sugar.  I should have enough tomatillos to make a couple of experiments.  I have a few peppers, eggplants and tomatoes that I am just letting grow bigger to right before the frost.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Homemade BBQ Sauce

Homemade BBQ Sauce

I have made things in my crockpot with barbecue flavors from scratch plenty of times.  The other day, I was talking to Kevin about barbecue sauce, and he mentioned how expensive it was at the store.  That got me thinking--can I make it from scratch all by itself?

It took 25 seconds of searching to find a basic barbecue sauce recipe--and it was as easy as could be.  I won’t put it here because, as usual, I altered it by adding stuff to it, which I didn’t measure out, so what I made can’t be duplicated.  It came out scrumptious.  I added fresh basil, oregano and a pepper from the garden.  I also tossed in an onion.  It took no time at all.  While it was simmering, I cooked some fresh vegetables and macaroni.  I put them all together, and had a great lunch.


I would say that there is no excuse to not make it from scratch as long as you have ketchup, vinegar and sugar--and a simple recipe from the internet.  Don’t let the grocery stores fool you--barbecue sauce doesn’t have to come from a bottle.  It can come from your kitchen.

Book Review: The Secret Agent” by Joseph Conrad

Book Review: The Secret Agent” by Joseph Conrad


I have read several other Conrad books and really liked them, so I was looking forward to this one.  They have all been a little slow in getting going, but this one took three quarters of the book before there was any real action.  The rest of it was boring.  What a disappointment.  It did have a spy and some intrigue going on, but it wasn’t much to keep my interest.  I didn’t even care much for the ending.  This isn’t one that I will forward on to Ellen unless she is having trouble sleeping.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Book Review: “The End of the Affair” by Graham Green

Book Review: “The End of the Affair” by Graham Green

This was much more like it after reading “Travels with My Aunt” by the same author.  It was a well-crafted and clever book.  Our protagonist is reminiscing about his love affair with a married woman at the same time as telling us what is going on in the present.  He used this same technique in “The Quiet American,” and it worked just as well.

The book talks extensively about love, hate, jealousy, how jealousy can destroy love and the existence of God.  The characters are well formed and believable and the story moves along smoothly.  I did get a little bored when several chapters were dedicated to journal entries, but they were essential to the plot.

Totally enjoyable in spite of being sad.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Ground Cherries

Ground Cherries

I learned about ground cherries--a relative to tomatillos and tomatoes--and I was intrigued.  I never tasted one before, and I have so much success growing tomatillos.

I ordered some seeds and planted them in the garden in the spring.  I only got one plant to sprout.  I wasn’t very surprised about the bad gerination because you are supposed to start them in the house and then transplant them, but my house is really too cold to start most seeds.  You are supposed to do the same with tomatillos, but driect sowing worked for them--why not their cousin?

So, in a sense, my project was a failure.  I transplanted some tomatillos into the area since I had too many of them sprout and moved on.

Months later, I saw a ground cherry on the ground.  That is when you pick them; hence the name.  You still have to wait a couple weeks before you can eat them because they are poisonous in the beginning.

It was worth the wait  imagine a little yellow berrie about the size of a blueberry that tastes like pineapple!  I have picked a few dozen of them over the summer.

I will not give up.  Next year, I will try planting them again.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

EASY HOMEMADE FLOUR TORTILLAS

EASY HOMEMADE FLOUR TORTILLAS     
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup warm water
Combine all the flour, salt, vegetable oil, and water until it forms a dough.
Roll the dough into a big ball and take about an 1 to 2 inch pieces off. Pat the dough flat with your hands or take a rolling pin and roll into circles.
Put the dough on a flat pan on the stove and let the sides cook until there are little brown specks on both sides like you would see on other tortillas.
***********************************************************************************************************************
I tried this recipe this morning, and it was so easy!!!!  I actually split it in half, so I wouldn't have too many leftovers. I will never by tortillas from the store, again.  Have you seen how expensive they have gotten?
It took me a little bit to get the hang of the rolling.  I learned to put a lot of flour on them as I rolled so they wouldn’t stick.  It only took a few minutes to cook each one--and they taste really, really good.
I made wraps of homemade cucumber freezer pickles with cheddar cheese.  For dessert, I put my homemade yogurt cheese on it with a generous helping of homemade grape jelly.  Wow!

Book Review: “Travels with My Aunt” by Graham Greene

Book Review: “Travels with My Aunt” by Graham Greene

I have really liked the novels that I have read by Graham Greene, but I was disappointed in this one.  I was expecting more adventures and a more interesting story.

The main character is a retired banker that likes his quiet life spending his time in his garden.  He meets a long lost aunt at his mother’s funeral, and she brings him into her rather odd life.  It seems most of the book was him being fascinated by the stories of her life.  She does get him to do some traveling with her and they ended up in some odd circumstances, but the book never became a page turner.

Over the span of the book, we see our man changing his attitudes about his life.  Now, as a retired estimator living a quiet life with my animals and garden, I just didn’t see the change as that realistic.  I can’t imagine that being arrested would make me desire a more exciting life.

Also, I have an eccentric aunt, myself, and I would say they are way over rated.  Their stories aren’t that fascinating--when you aren’t even sure what is true and what isn’t--as it the case with this book.

I didn’t hate the book, but I expected more from Graham Greene.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Homemade Grape Jelly

Kevin called me a couple days from a vineyard.  On impulse, he had just bought 12 pounds of concord grapes.


To me, concord grapes only mean one thing--it is time to make jelly.  When we were kids, there were a lot of wild grapes growing in the woods around our house.  We would pick them, and my mom would make grape jelly.  It was so delicious, that to this day, I don’t like the taste of store grape jelly.  It tastes fake like grape candy.  


I have made jelly in the past, so I know it is easy to do.  I never made grape becasue the grapes are no longer there.  Kevin was completely ignorant about the process.  He didn’t even know what pectin was.


We plucked about half the grapes, cooked them down, made juice by running them through my food mill, added sugar, brought them to a boil, added the pectin, boiled another minute and we were done.  Seven cups of jelly, just like that.


Kevin was so worried it didn’t set that he wanted to quit in defeat.  We still had enough juice left for another batch, so I pushed him on to do another batch.  Twenty minutes later, we had 7 more cups.

It is delicious--as tasty as I remembered.  Kevin loves it, too.  I wonder what kind of jelly we should make next?

(We made grape juice from the balance of the grapes--and it is delicious!)

Monday, October 3, 2016

Back to Retirement

Back to Retirement
Today, I start my first full week of retirement in 6 weeks.  I really, really didn’t like going to work, again.  Even though most of it was for only a couple days a week, it just destroyed the contentment that surrounded me when I was fully retired.  I am so glad to be back to it.

There is so much to do.  I definitely need to catch up on my blogging.  Though I had the time to do it, my heart wasn’t in it when I was working.  It didn’t take long for my yard and gardens to get out of control, again.  Sadly, they are nearing their end for the year.  I sure do miss the gardening in the winter.  Now, it seems like I am mostly pulling out plants that I don’t want to go to seed.  There are others that I will leave in because I don’t mind if they spread--and some of them the birds will come and eat the seeds.  They are fun to watch.  I haven’t seen a hummingbird in a couple of weeks, so I think they are gone.  There are way less dragonflies, too.  They seemed to have left when I was working.

Maggie is back to getting long walks every day.  Since it is cooler, the walks are getting longer.  Today, we went exploring on a trail that I haven’t been to since last year.  I thought we needed to add more variety to our walks.  There was some hills, too.  I need more hills to get in better shape.

Thunder was taking me for granted the first time I was retired.  When I went back to work, he got very needy, again, and he wanted me with him all the time.  He is starting to settle down and take naps when I am around.  It will make it easier to blog, that is for sure.  

Friday, September 23, 2016

Retirement Returning Soon

I have one more week to go of part time.  My trainee has progressed enough that I think he won't need me anymore.  He will still need help--estimating is a tough job to learn, but he is no longer a ship drifting out at sea...

I have learned something during this week stint of working--that retirement is really the right thing for me.  After the first few days of being at work, the novelty was gone.  I'm not sure if the novelty will ever been gone with retirement for me.  It suits me so well.

Ellen has been taking vacation, and we have been getting some terrific riding.  We love to ride in the fall. The weather has been a little warm, though.  We look forward to the cool weather with no bugs.

I will be spending more time with this blog once I am retired, again.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Book Review: "Our Man in Havana" by Graham Greene

I have read a few books by Graham Greene, already, and I loved them.  This one is no different.  Taking place in pre-revolotionary Cuba, it is about a humble vacuum cleaner salesman that is roped into being an agent for the British Secret Service.

It starts out very light-hearted and ends up getting rather serious.  The story just roped me right in and wouldn't let me go.  Once again, I don't want to give anything away.  All I can say is, espionage has never been more entertaining than in "Our Man in Havana."

I have a few more Graham Green novels to read, so you will be hearing about them soon.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Book Review: Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad

This is my third Joseph Conrad book that I read.  The first was "In the Heart of Darkness" followed by "Victory."  All three are good books.  The one that I can't remember the name of is my favorite.

This one is narrated by Marlowe.  He narrated "Victory," too.  I don't know who he is, but he likes studying  characters, and so do I.

Lord Jim is a name given to an ordinary person named Jim.  Jim was a romantic and loved the sea.  He pictured himself playing a romantic part in a sea adventure.  He became a sailor and things went really badly for him.  The last thing he turned out to be was  a romantic hero, and he spent his time running from his past.

Things started to look up for him, and then trouble showed up.

Conrad isn't an easy read, and you have to be patient with him.  It takes a long time for his stories to get going, but if you enjoy good characters and stories from exotic places, you won't mind the slow start.  I am looking forward to reading more of his books in the future.

Book Review: The Pharaoh's Cat by Maria Luisa Lang

Book Review: The Pharaoh's Cat by Maria Luisa Lang

I loved this book.  Written by an art historian and amateur Egyptologist--and evidently, someone who loves cats, it kept me entertained from beginning to end.

A cat is magically endowed with the ability to speak and walk upright.  He is then befriended by a young pharaoh, and their adventures begin.  Ancient Egypt and her customs come to life, and that would have been enough for me to enjoy the book, but the story took unexpected turns that kept me at the edge of my seat--and often made me laugh.

The story is told in first person by the cat, who often gets into mischief and certainly has an attitude.  I love how he interprets the world.  I thought the cat was simply delightful. Of course, I am rather fond of cats.

I don't want to give too much away, but if you like cats, history and adventure, this book is for you.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Boondoggle

For those few of you that read this and wondered what happened to me--well, it is like a nightmare--I am sitting right here at work as I type this.  Yes, work.  I agreed to help them out a bit.  I worked this week, and then I will be part time for about a month to help train my replacement.  Someone quit, so now the only person left is too busy to train him.

It hasn't been all that bad.  It was nice to see everyone and feeling useful, but I really prefer to be back at home. I am surprised how much I remembered.

This has convinced me that retirement is my preferred state of being.  

Monday, August 22, 2016

Too Many Cucumbers--What to Do? Freezer Pickles

Too Many Cucumbers--What to Do?  Freezer Pickles

Long ago and far away, Ellen lived with me.  Whenever we had too many cucumbers, she would make cucumber pickles.  I didn’t like pickles, so I never tried them.  She ate them with abandon. I was stupid.

I found myself with way more cucumbers than I could eat, and I remembered her pickles.  Maybe I would like them?  I talked to her about it, and she wasn’t sure where the recipe was, but gave me some hints.  I looked all over and couldn’t find it.  She told me as much as she could remember, so I started to look around on the Internet.

I found a recipe that looked close and made a half batch--in case I didn’t like it.  They have to sit overnight before freezing.  The next day, I tried them and liked them.  I made another half batch and my cucumber problem was under control.

Here is the recipe I used:

Crispy freezer pickles
6 or 7 cups sliced cucumbers
2 cups sugar
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup diced onions
1 tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. Salt

In a large bowl mix all ingredients and stir until sugar dissolves.
Refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to blend.

Fill freezer containers, label, date and freeze until ready to use