Inspired by a little-known picture book from the pen of Bethany Tudor, this is a diary, of sorts, where I document some of my thoughts, activities, and ideas as I explore the challenges met by the characters in the story: hard work, the care and nurture of others, housekeeping skills, life changes, charity, community, and cooperation, among others. Like Samuel and Samantha, the ducks in the tale, I struggle and succeed, cope and celebrate, work and play, handling the tasks that come my way. I invite you to join me on my journey.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Breakfast Doodle

Doodle by King Richard
This morning, my family and I ate breakfast at one of our favorite local restaurants.  While enjoying the conversation at our table, my husband doodled on his placemat.  This is what came out of his pen.  I thought it was cute.  Not a masterpiece, by any means, but fun nonetheless.  Since the doodle seemed so happy, I thought I would share him with all of you.

Blessings on your day!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Movie Comes to Town

Noah's Restaurant became the Nor'easter Diner
Photo by Plush Duck
Yesterday afternoon, I drove down to one of the seaside towns near my house to have lunch with my daughter.  The traffic, which is normally quiet, was crowded and crazy.  There were also signs everywhere that read "GHS Base Camp" and "GHS Crew Parking" and just plain "GHS."  Orange traffic cones and barricades had been erected at almost every intersection heading onto the main drag where I had planned to grab a bite to eat, and large moving trucks filled with equipment had been strategically placed throughout town, along with personnel communicating into small walkie-talkies perched on shoulders or held in hands.  What in the world was going on?  It was as if the entire borough had been transformed.

Well, the community ( and the restaurant where I had planned to enjoy a long, peaceful lunch) had been renamed for the day to film some scenes for an upcoming movie titled Great Hope Springs (hence, all those "GHS" signs).  Starring Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep, the comedic flick tells the story of a long-time marriage gone stale (possibly):
Many years of marriage have left Maeve wanting to spice things up and reconnect with her husband.  When she hears of a famed relationship guru in the town of Great Hope Springs, she must persuade her skeptical husband to get on a plane for an intense week of marriage and sex therapy.  Getting there was hard shedding their bedroom hang ups, learning some new moves and rediscovering their youthful spark is when the real adventure begins.
So, hopefully, my general geographic locale benefited, economically and otherwise, from the film crew activity today.  I am told the movie will hit theaters around December 14, 2012.  I, for one, will be attending just so I can see how they did making a small seaside town in Connecticut look like a small town in Maine.  From the looks of what went on today, I am guessing they did a great job.

If you want to see another movie that was filmed around here, check out Mystic Pizza (1988).

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fall Has Officially Arrived

Spice cookies on depression glass
Photo by Plush Duck
Yesterday was the autumnal equinox in the northern hemisphere, that day toward the end of the year when light and dark are equal (or nearly so).  Gone are the hot, humid days of August;  approaching are the chilly days of October and November when the leaves will change color and the beautiful shades of red, yellow, and gold will fill the landscape, especially here in New England.  The fact that, today, the temperature is 73˚ F, the humidity is 93%, and the large maple tree in my backyard is still loaded with green leaves should be roundly dismissed as evidence to the contrary.  Autumn is here and the time has come to begin the hard work of preparing the home and garden for winter.

That said, I wanted to take some time to slow down and recognize the moment, to recognize the intricate design of the universe that makes it possible for us to identify the signs and seasons of the year.  To mark the day, my daughter created a tasty meal of chili and rice, topped off by these delicious spice cookies.  She started with a gingersnap recipe and tweaked it a bit.  They really were as yummy as they look.  Many blessings on your day.

And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the the night;  and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years. --- Genesis 1:14 NASB

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cave-Aged Cheese?

Last week, my daughter and I visited the cheese section of our local grocery store in search of just the right combination of cheeses for a "fancy" macaroni and cheese dish that she was creating.  Parmesan, romano, and asiago ended up in the recipe but as we were heading to the checkout, I noticed a sample table of Emmental Cave-Aged Swiss cheese.  Cave aged?  Intrigued, I purchased some.

This afternoon, we finally broke open the package, thinking it would make a good snack.  Wow!  What a wonderful flavor!  It was strong but very smooth and creamy with little aftertaste.  I would highly recommend it to anyone, especially for a snack tray at a wine and cheese party or shredded on a salad.

To learn more about Emmental cheeses, visit these links:
- Emmental:  The Art of Making Cheese
- Cave-Aged Emmental, Have I Mentioned That Age Matters?

Priced at ~$15.00/pound in my area of the country, I suggest looking for a small piece to keep the cost from breaking your budget.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Washing My Washer

Washing machine agitator full of greasy film
Photo by Plush Duck
It sounds ridiculous, but this evening I had to wash my washer.  You would think that putting detergent and bleach through it almost daily would keep a washer in tip-top shape, but when certain individuals decided to wash garage towels in the washing machine, consequences ensued (observe photo).

Now I know why the instructions on the lid of my washer say this:
Never place items in the washer that are dampened with gasoline or other flammable fluids.  No washer can completely remove oil.
Granted, those words were placed there as part of a fire hazard warning, but they could just as easily have said, "Don't wash any item containing petroleum product residue because it will stain your washer and lay down a layer of oily scum that may be impossible to remove."  Given the color and consistency of the goo in my washer, I suspected the culprit was anti-seize, but I would never know for sure.  What I did know for sure was that I needed to correct this problem as soon as possible because I had other loads of laundry to wash.

So what did I do?  I kept experimenting until something worked.

Solution #1:  ran the washer with Tide Free and the hottest possible water.

Nope.  Didn't work.  Washer looked exactly the same.

Solution #2:  wiped down the washer with Windex, scrubbing to remove the black residue.

Managed to remove most of the gray color and some of the small particulate matter.  However, the oily residue remained.

Solution #3:  wiped down the washer with Washer Magic®, then ran the washer with the same substance on the hottest possible water setting.

Eureka!  My washer was clean!.  Many thanks to Koalagirl for the Washer Magic®.  I owe her one.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The SpongeBob Car!

Yesterday afternoon, my husband called me on his phone, yelling, "I'm behind the SpongeBob car!"  My response was, "Follow it and get a picture."  He knew I had been trying to get a photo of that car for, literally, years, which is why he called me.  Unfortunately, King Richard was lacking the camera, so I hopped in my Subaru and headed off to get my own snapshot.  Sadly, when I found the car, I managed to miss the fact that the camera was set to manual focus, messing up all the pictures I took.  Not to worry, though, someone else in my community took video of the SpongeBob car in a location where I often see it:  the Walmart parking lot.  Enjoy!


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11

Photo by Plush Duck
Ten years ago today, shortly after breakfast, my daughter and I began her spelling lesson for the day.  Being homeschoolers who were starting a new school year, we decided to get an early start.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous, one of those memorable mornings with the smell of crisp, clean autumn air wafting in the open windows and the warm feel of not-yet-departed late summer temperatures spreading over you if you stood in the sunshine.  My husband had departed for work at the Home Depot but had returned home by the time Flight 77 had crashed into the Pentagon.  I recall standing next to him in the family room watching the initial coverage of that third attack.  Like many Americans, I remember exactly where I was that fateful morning.

Yesterday evening, my family and I were discussing how best to mark this most important anniversary.  Aside from attending Sunday morning worship services, I suggested watching the film United 93 since we had never viewed it.  My husband, who purchased the movie, replied, "I don't think I am ready to watch that yet."  Given that response, I decided to see how the day unfolded rather than try to plan some elaborate commemorative observance.

This morning, as I was preparing to leave for church, I turned on Fox News and began watching the Ground Zero memorial service.  I wasn't able to catch very much of it as I had to leave for church after about the first thirty minutes.  I did begin to hear the names of the dead prior to getting in my car.  As I traveled down the freeway, I continued to listen to the service on the radio.  At some point, a news commentator described how a family member of one of the victims physically traced over the name of her loved one on the plaques that surround the new reflecting pools.  It occurred to me that if I did not have a grave to visit, if I had never received the remains of a loved one, that simple act of touching the name of a loved one would be a tremendously meaningful act of remembrance and healing and closure, like me traveling to Minnesota for the first time after my father died and placing my hand on his headstone.  Tears welled up in my eyes right then and I worried that I would cry through church*

Around noon, I headed to a picnic and enjoyed the company of friends and loved ones, much like I do on Memorial Day.  In fact, the entire mood of the day felt very similar to Memorial Day:  remembrances, fellowship meals, cookouts, small flags in the cemetery, family get-togethers, etc.  Maybe in future, September 11th (rather than Labor Day) will be the holiday that marks the beginning of fall at my house.
It makes sense to bookend my summer, my time of rest and relaxation, vacation and fun, with days of remembrance and recognition where I pause to remember the people who died so I can enjoy such a season of renewal in peace, comfort, and security.

Yesterday, my daughter and I participated in a local heritage event exploring the history of the Civil War in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the start of that conflict.  At the closing ceremony, Abraham Lincoln (a re-enactor) recited the Gettysburg Address and a local pastor recited a prayer written by a Civil War soldier before giving a benediction.  As "President Lincoln" spoke, I made a point of focusing on the words of the Gettysburg Address, meditating on them in the context of the 9/11 anniversary and the dedication of the memorial at Ground Zero.  I encourage my readers to do the same and, to that end, I offer the words of that famous address so you can think on them now.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.  We are met on a great battlefield of that war.  We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.  It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate --- we can not consecrate --- we can not hallow --- this ground.  The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.  The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.  It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.  It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us --- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion --- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain --- that this nation, under God, shall not perish from the earth.
May you and your family have a time of quiet remembrance, dedicated service, and family connection this September 11th.  My best wishes to you all.

*Sadly, and embarrassingly, my pastor never mentioned the 9/11 anniversary in church.  Neither did we sing any patriotic songs (like "God Bless America"), nor were any prayers offered for the victims, their families, or the first responders.  Basically, the event went unrecognized.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

A New Favorite Snack

Photo by King Richard
A few weeks ago, I passed a promotion at the end of an aisle in my local grocery store.  I succumbed to said advertisement and purchased the suggested snack, Olde Cape Cod Kettle Corn Popped Crisps.  Made from corn, popped in sunflower oil, and sprinkled with powdered sugar and sea salt, these things were so yummy that they survived less than an hour in my kitchen once they were opened.  The other day, I found these same chips on sale again.  This time, they were buy one, get two free!  Tough decision.  Yes, the chips made it into my cart, into my car, into my kitchen, and into my family.  Latest accompaniment:  as a side to a bowl of chicken corn chowder made by Katherine the Great.

Note:  No compensation was received for featuring this product.

Jury Duty...Again

My sticker
Photo by King Richard

Today, for the umpteenth time, I had to report to the Superior Court building for jury duty.  Since moving to the Northeast over twenty years ago, I have had the honor of performing this civic task more times than I can count.  Mind you, I don't always have to show up in person (like today).  Sometimes all I need to do is call in to see if they need me.*  At other times, I have been excused.  For example, when Katherine the Great was young and still nursing, I was allowed to delay my service until she was weaned.  A few times, I was permitted to bow out because I was a homeschooling mom with a deployed military husband.  Once, after going through part of the voir dire process, I was excused because I was the back-up labor and delivery coach for my friend who was pregnant with twins.  About six years ago, I was granted permission to leave because I was the executor for my father's will.  Today, however, I had to make an appearance in person.  Thankfully, I only had to stay for about two hours.  I was impannelled for a civil case that was subsequently continued, so the other jurors and I were dismissed.  Now, because I actually showed up for jury duty, I won't be required to serve for three years.  Unfortunately, that will not stop the judicial system from sending me a jury summons.  I get those a least once every six to twelve months.**  Fortunately, this time, when I get a new summons, I will be able to refer to my juror certificate as evidence of previous service.  Hurrah!

*In my state of residence, being excused from jury duty by being listed on a "no show" list prior to your appearance date excuses you only for the current court year, which runs from September 1 to August 31.

**Jury summons are mailed to citizens based on a randomly generated list that pulls names from the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Central Voter Registry of the Secretary of State, the state income tax rolls at the Department of Revenue Services, and the unemployment compensation records from the Department of Labor.  This random selection does not take into account prior jury service.  The judicial system relies on jurors to alert the court as to their previous service, if any.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Sights of Recovery

My husband and I ran some business errands this evening, looking for (of all things) AAA batteries.  No such luck.  The flashlight and battery shelves remain empty as evidenced by this photograph.

The cupboard was bare @ Home Depot
Photo by Plush Duck
What isn't empty is the local mall parking lot.  It is chock full of utility trucks.  I have never seen such a sight.  My speculation is that the crews were given a mandatory eight-hour rest period so they didn't work with live power lines and chain saws while sleepy.  Aggravating for those without power, I am sure, because it will slow the recovery work.  However, I think it is a wise decision.

Utility trucks @ the local mall
Photo by King Richard
If you remain without power this evening, I am sorry and I hope you will be reconnected soon.  If your power has been restored, I am happy for you.