Sunday, August 24, 2008

High School Yearbook

When was the last time you picked up one of your high school yearbooks?

Last night, I opened the padded white plastic cover onto my junior year. Flipping through the photos of my classmates, I skimmed over the faces that I did not remember at all; focusing on those I did. How young and innocent we all were. I studied the face of the girl who out of the blue moved to the east coast; the boy who would later murder his wife; the chum who went on to become a doctor living and working in Africa, and all the girls who got married right out of high school and settled down to start families.

Many of the candid pictures did not have any captions or names associated with them, so I had no idea who was in the photo or what was so hilarious. I strained, trying to force the memory. Perhaps it was too late at night after a hard day at work, or I really moved in a small circle; either way many of the pictures were meaningless.

Equally vague were all the notes people wrote in my book. One of the highlights of getting the yearbook was carrying it around so friends and classmates could write in it. I read all those penned sentiments, twisting the book this way and that as I followed the scrawls, clueless as to which of the Marys wrote what note, who Jess was, was I really Mr. Brunswick favorite Biology student, and why some friends had not written at all.

Who was this person they were writing about. How could it be me? I pondered the girl that treasured that book. I did not recognize myself; yet in the midst of those notes, there was a hint of who I would become. I closed the book, happy to be able to visit my past and terribly glad I am not in high school.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Signs of Autumn

I am in denial.

Flat out denial.

Even though the grocery store has started to stock mums (3 for $10.) and there are some spots of orange and red where the sun has kissed the trees and the furnace kicked on last night because it got down into upper 30s (and the windows were wide open) and it is getting darker much, much earlier; I am turning a deaf ear---but not a blind eye. For how can I. Fall for me is when the trees themselves turn into flowers. I am feeling abandoned by summer; not yet ready to move on, but Fall is beckoning.

Are you ready?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Queen Anne's Lace Jelly

I opened the envelope from my aunt to find a yellowed newspaper clipping with a recipe for Queen Anne's Lace Jelly. I love old-timey recipes, so I had to make it. It is has a very light lemony flavor and is the palest of pink. Everytime I see these flowers I think of her and this recipe.

2C. very firmly packed flower heads cut from the stems.
4 3/4 C boiling water
3 1/2 C sugar divided
1 Pkg powdered pectin (SureJell)
4 1/2 T strained lemon juice

Slosh the flowers through cold water to remove all of the bugs. (There will be lots. I ended up letting the flower heads soak in cold water.) Drain and cover with boiling water. Cover the container and let steep for 15-30 minutes. Strain. (You are basically making a tea.)

Measure 4 1/2 C of the strained infusion into a large kettle. Mix 1/4 C sugar with pectin and stir in remaining sugar. Boil 1 minute.

Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice. skim the foam from the top of the jelly with a metal spoon. Immediately pour into hot, clean jars and cover with lids. Cool, then refrigerate.

To make the jelly shelf-stable process the jars for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath.

The jelly is very soft, so the last time I made it I used 2 pkgs of SureJell instead of one.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Staycation with Friends

Once in a while I have out-of-state guests come to the mountain. It is always a highlight when you live far from everybody and everything. I love having people in my house. (Hmmm, maybe I am a frustrated innkeeper.) This week I have friends here from Minnesota. I have known Cindy for close to 10 years.

In an effort to entertain them, I have planned their time to the hilt.

We have eaten home-cooked Indian food; have been shopping in cute boutiques; lunching at outdoor restaurants in quaint river towns;

saw the Manhattan skyline from the speedboat the Beast and even took in a Broadway show.

I have dragged Cindy to visit other friends and made her schlep across the bridge from Lambertville, NJ to New Hope, PA in the almost pouring rain. (Thank you Peter for driving us back to our car.) The only place we have not been is to the shore and that is simply too far and crowded in August.

While Cindy and I have had time to talk about life, love and the pursuit of happiness; her daughter has been able to re-connect with friends she has not seen in two years. It has been wonderful and exhausting for everyone.

How are you spending your staycation?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Cherry Tomatoes

It has started. The cherry tomatoes are getting out of hand. Although my sister, Master Gardener Extraordinaire, told me that cherry tomatoes are indeterminate and will just keep on growing until frost; I just rolled my eyes and fluffed her off. I went ahead and planted 4 red cherry tomato plants and 1 yellow. Yowza! What was I thinking. We are now in August and I am picking a bowlful every morning. I like them, I really do, but for heavens sake how many can 1 person eat. Thank your lucky stars you are not a neighbor. I will be ringing doorbells and abandoning my adorable tomato children on doorsteps very soon. Do you think I need to put bonnets on them to encourage adoption?

Friday, August 15, 2008


We sped down the river toward the Statue of Liberty, with music pounding and river water spraying the passengers on the outside of the speedboat and drenching those sitting in the back. We had judiciously decided to split up and sit midship on the aisle. (We were going to a show that night and did not want to be drenched all day.) The front of the boat bounced and rocked against the wakes of the other river traffic. We waved at the people on sailboats, Circle Line tour boats and ferries. Everyone was laughing, singing and pointing out the buildings of one of the most famous skylines in the world. It was a hoot. As we approached the Statue of Liberty the captain slowed the boat to talk about the statue's history; stopping in front so we could take pictures. It is a beautiful statue that we, or rather, I take for granted. If you get to the City, go out on the Beast. It is totally fun.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


We had just started on the made-to-order guacamole at the Sombrero Restaurant on 48th off 8th when we heard the approaching sirens of a fire truck. Not paying it much attention, I went on dipping my chip until the fire truck turned the corner and inched up to stop in front of the restaurant. Sitting outside, we watched as the firemen jumped out of their vehicle and ran toward us. We looked at each other. Was the restaurant on fire? Do we need to evacuate? We did not see or smell smoke. Some of the firemen dashed into the building, while others milled about in the street looking up at the floors above us. Was the building on fire? Not being able to stand the suspense, I got up to walk across the street to scan the upstairs windows. Sure enough there were wisps of smoke escaping out of a third story window. No one seemed to be overly concerned. The firemen came back out and stood in the street talking with each other; occasionally casting glances in the direction of the window. The smoke stopped. They climbed back in their big red truck and roared away. The gawkers shuffled off and we started on our entrees.

Ah, life in the big city.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Rock walls

I am obsessed with rocks.

It’s a love/hate thing.

When I first moved to the mountain, I liked rocks in the “wow, what a pretty rock” kinda way. This included the boulders in the 3 rock walls holding my property from sliding down the mountain. I loved the natural look of them. I stuffed dirt in the crevices and planted flowers. It looked great. I liked them a lot. I still do.

There is a but coming…can you hear it?

Then wanting to put in flower beds, I started to dig. Everywhere I plunged my shovel; I would hear the distinctive ring of metal against unyielding rock. Grunt. Sweat. Huff. Grunt. It was not uncommon to hear grunts and swearing rising like a floating miasma in the clean mountain air. Not all of that was coming from me, the neighbors were equal contributors. I tried everything. Thinking I didn’t have the right tool for the job, I bought a different shovel. Then I bought a pick axe. And a mattock. Then another mattock, with a sturdy yellow plastic handle. I even got a special pointy shovel that has teeth thinking it would maneuver around the rocks. All to no avail. Digging rocks is plain hard work. I have dug out dozens of rocks over the years and I think I have gotten pretty good at it.

As a result, there are now burgeoning stacks and tottering piles of rocks sitting around the property. I use them to stuff into groundhog holes, to level the birdbaths, to make garden paths and shore up the rock walls. I have extolled their virtues to rock-less guests who have taken some of them home to display proudly on their own lawns. My family has even hauled some back to the flatland.

Whatever you do, don’t buy rocks. There is no doubt someone with a pile that would gladly let you haul them away. You can certainly have any and all of mine

Friday, August 8, 2008

Skywatch Friday

Cotton candy sunset in Alaska. Looks good enough to eat.

Visit other Skywatch posts from around the world.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Yard Neglect

Yard neglect. I am guilty as charged. You remember the post on wildflower gardening by default, right? Well I can no longer turn my head or pretend I adore wildflowers (which I do) or make excuses. I have to get out there and take care of business. So loppers in hand I started in on the worst bed down by the driveway. I was just going to trim the variegated Japanese Willow away from the the other shrubs, flowers and the weeping Norway Spruce. But you know how that goes, I whacked a little off over here and a little over there. As the light flooded in I swear there was a collective sigh and rustling of leaves (but that may have been the breeze). Four hours later I leaned back to ease my aching back and I had made a serious dent. But that was in just trimming shrubs, pulling lemon balm, chocolate mint and garden loosestrife by the fistful and cutting off the old yucca flower stalks. I was in serious need of a drink of water. Heading to the house, I pulled out scissors to cut the seed heads off the out-of-control perennials on the way in. There is loads more to do, maybe by fall I'll have it back under control.

Oh, I wouldn't sit on the bench if I were you.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Farmer's Market Sunday

Have you been to a farmer's market or farm stand yet this year? August through Autumn is my favorite time to go. The tomatoes, corn and peaches are at their peak. It doesn't get better than this unless you grow your own. I strolled through the tents at my local Sunday market sampling garlic and onion jelly, herbed goat cheese, blackberry wine, artisan cheeses and red-fleshed plums so ripe the juice flowed down my chin. I love buying local.

Tonight for dinner I am making a pasta with fresh mozzarella, spinach, red bell peppers and onions. I need to cook the organic summer squash I bought, so I might throw them in too.

The picture is of a vegetable stand I saw in the walled Inner City of Baku a few years ago. The fruit there was fantastic. Some of the best figs I have ever eaten.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

50th wedding anniversary

I am going to a 50th wedding anniversary party today of my good friends Carol and Larry Coulthurst. Being married to the same person for 50 years through thick and thin is an amazing thing. Good Luck and God Bless. The party should be awesome. People have flown in from across the country and there will be yodelling. Yes, you read that right. I'll let you know how that goes.

This is a picture of my great grandparents Alice Annette (Mohr) and George Merrill Romick at their 50th wedding anniversary party in 1951. My grandmother Leah Romick Robertson is in the front row far left.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Ferris Wheel

One of the reasons I love this time of year, is because of the fairs, local, county, 4H, state, you name it I love them all. The 4H animals, the wacky chickens, the junk food, the lime fizzes, the ox-pulls, the pig races, the rides. I'm going. Are you? When is your fair?