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A Day in a Lifetime

Sixty plus years of marriage is a lot to celebrate, but once again Bill and I are recalling the “I Do’s” spoken to a justice of the peace so long ago. We wanted to elope but Mom said that would break my father’s heart, so we stayed in town and Dad cried anyway as he predicted Bill would leave me as soon as he graduated from college.

Dad is the one in the background of our wedding picture, hands on hips, predicting doom.

Dad was so wrong.

Because here we are, still together.

And even through self-quarantining for over a year trying to avoid Covid-19, we have still not run out of conversation.

And even through my BigFoot and now arthritic hip, we are still a dedicated pair.

Life has thrown us some curve balls but we stuck together anyway and we still celebrate

the good times and the growing family and the good friends, those who still linger and those who are gone.

It was a day in a lifetime, our wedding day, but it was only

a preface to a long story.

Photo by Lisa on Pexels.com

We all have our little habits that die hard. I tend to rub my nose when I am uncomfortable or bored or I just need to get out or move. I kind of whack my nose and have been doing that since childhood. Used to suck my thumb too but that habit had to be terminated.

But did you ever meet a dog with an unbreakable habit? I am still discovering little clues about Elsa’s personality.

Elsa is our not-so-little Rescue Dog. She used to be lift-able but no longer. Now she is well fed (maybe overfed?) as Bill and I continue to hand out halved dog treats plus plus plus. Like in the film/book Eat, Pray, Love, I have begun calling Elsa “Groceries.”

Back to bad habits that die hard.

Elsa thinks flying insects are fair game. When in the outside world she lurks, stalks, jumps, and snaps into midair and sometimes actually nabs a bumble bee! Oh Mighty Dog, Mighty Hunter!

The problem is last week she swallowed one live!

We tried to estimate how long a living bee in the system of a semi-small dog could survive but came to no conclusions.

Watching Elsa provided some explanation though.

  • First, she plunged her nose in and out much like a harem dancer thrusting chin forward and back.
  • Then she coughed a hollow kind of deep cough.
  • Follow all that by an insane need to go out again
  • Followed by a desperate need to eat grass.
  • After consuming about 3 cups of grass, back inside for a restless nap filled with barking dreams,
  • Then repeat all of the above plus
  • Finally she began dropping her bottom to the ground again and again and again.

Can you trace the movement of the poor struggling bee trying to maneuver through a semi-small dog’s system?

I was beside myself with worry. Could it be something she ate? Like a live bumble bee? The vet was closed of course. I made up my mind to wait to the first open business day and I would take her to the vet.

After a bland dinner (chicken and rice) and a lot of in and out of the house, Elsa finally looked peaceful. Vet no longer necessary.

I have tried to tell Elsa (to no avail) that killing bumble bees is a terrible habit that has to stop. However, I now have a dog who is a serial bumble bee killer.

This morning she was on the deck on high alert. One of those great big flying predators was daring the mighty hunter.

I screamed, “NO! Don’t eat bugs!” and this time she listened but she is refreshed, happy, wagging and hungry.

And the world is full of bumble bees. Well one less after this eyewitness of the bumble bee murder.

Photo by Any Lane on Pexels.com

Somewhere in the journey from making childhood mud pies to adult culinary disasters there emerged a gigantic love for cream toppings.

I simply love anything like Heavy Cream, Whipped Cream, Sour Cream, Clotted Cream, and even fake cream in aerosol containers.

And then whilst traveling in France through my job taking printers overseas I was served something called Creme Fraiche. It is now my love over all the others – even whipped cream. Clotted cream comes close (I had that in England at the Hyde Park Hotel in London for high tea). What a job I had huh? I must admit the work for a large printing association introduced me to the world.

Back to Creme Fraiche (pronounced Krem-fresh). If you have not heard of it, it is a luxurious topping for just about anything you can think of. Fruit first of course since they are a natural pairing, but even meat will be enhanced by this delightfully smooth almost-whipped-cream-but-better-topping.

I make my own and have a recipe that is probably long gone and mostly forgotten and maybe my recipe isn’t even for Creme Fraiche after all. But I tell people it is. And it’s so good it is guaranteed to add to my (your) reputation as a gourmet cook!

And here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

One Cup of Sour Cream

One Cup of Heavy Cream

Yep! That’s it!

Equal to Equal. How hard is that?

Now mix the two in a glass dish until well blended. Then allow the mixture to sit uncovered for four or more hours until everything is smooth and of a non-runny texture. No need to stir. No added ingredients. Just wait.

When the mixture is just the right consistency – not runny but thick and creamy like sour cream, you can cover and refrigerate for use as you wish.

And as you use your newly found luxurious deliciousness be sure to go back and spread the top of the topping out so it is smooth and with no pockets to get watery.

Note: Now I know most Creme Fraiche recipes only include heavy cream and buttermilk and mostly for longer hours. I never have buttermilk on hand but I do always have sour cream. And finding heavy cream at the market is sometimes a challenge but I can always find heavy whipping cream. And that’s all it takes.

Enjoy!

A Reverse Tornado

We hired a painting contractor to brighten up the exterior of the house we have lived in for over 30 years. Much like my face, the old cedar siding was severely faded and in need of an uplift.

Little did we know there would be a fleet of ten young college students who came to our rescue.

They were a well trained team of experts, each with his or her own specialty and each with his or her own assigned area.

These were girls and boys from all over the country who have opted to stay in town for the summer months, and I suppose this is a good way to earn extra dollars.

I forgot how much energy and strength there resides in the young.

Suddenly there was a hoard of energetic people all over the house.

A port-a-potty was brought in – well, not “in” – but out and available for their use.

Then the mob came with all their ladders and tools and strength and determination and began by power washing.

And in 3 days the house was stained and looks better now than when it was brand new!

Woosh!

Thirty years of fading and grime erased just like that.

It was like a reverse tornado that left us house occupants scratching our heads in wonder.

Peace and Quiet

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Peace and quiet are what I yearn for,

even more so in the golden years.

Instead the phone is ringing “off the hook”

with fake people scams and phishing,

so who has time to read a book?

Yesterday FedX and UPS came twice,

and sent the dog into a fit of barking

calculated to excite.

And others came to dig a trench and add a cable

for high speed internet to bring us up-to-date

that sent the dog a-running and a-barking

and the phone kept a-ringing

so peace and quiet have to wait.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I love Spring in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. ‘Tis really the season for beautiful color and the clean clear beauty of nature’s reawakening. Even the deer begin boasting their new babies. And I feel happy and productive and eager to think about planting more flowers. But thinking is not doing and since I am still a slow motion walker waiting for a hip replacement I have not injected myself into the wild.

Photo taken by Daughter-in-Law, Emmy – Virginia Redbud

Spring is is also a time of imminent threat from the wild. Whether you go outside to feel your toes in the grass or not.

Three days ago I felt an itchy place on my back just below the left shoulder. A hot shower helped and I thought nothing of it.

Two days ago, the itch was back so I took a look with the help of a hand mirror and saw a red place with a slightly dark center. I asked Bill to take a look with a magnifying glass and he did. He said, there was nothing there…. maybe a little raised mole. So I put some anti-itch gel on it and went to a peaceful slumber.

Yesterday the itch was back in full force and when I looked at it with the hand mirror there was a pronounced dark center, much larger. Bill took a look too and said “it” (the dark center) was kind of hanging loose so he removed it. In my opinion it was a well fed deer tick! And I was immediately off to the doctor.

Results:

  1. It was probably a tick. An adult deer tick is the size of a poppy seed. There are no charts or photos I know of that show a well fed deer tick as opposed to a hungry one.
  2. The doctor said if you check yourself all over each day and you happen to take off a tick, no medication is necessary.
  3. Because I came in early, I only had to have two antibiotics immediately… no more.
  4. Evidently, if you have a tick bite and remove it within 34 hours, you will not need meds.

I am still confused over all of this.

Seems to me, you should report a tick bite no matter what. My niece contracted Lyme and suffered with it for many years.

Anyway, in addition to gimpy walking I now have the remains of a bite on my back. The culprit escaped a plastic bag I swear I sealed. He was a major escape artist.

The doctor’s answer for this latter issue was to put a cotton ball soaked in nail polish remover in the bag with the tick. He will then suffocate and die but his body will stay in tact for identification! More than I want to know.

I dislike ticks and other bugs, but do I hate them enough to become a wanton murderer?

‘Tis the season all right.

Spring has sprung in all its glory.

But there is a downside to living in paradise.

Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia

Photo by Egor Kamelev on Pexels.com

Sometimes I feel like Rapunzel or Snow White from a mythical fairytale. Only I have short white hair and never sleep less than 7 or 8 hours even if there were a pea under the mattress. There is no wolf either, nor 7 dwarfs, nor 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 or even one.

The fact is though, I may have kissed a frog who turned into a wizard who freed me from a melancholy spell where I was comatose and jailed in a tower indefinitely (with not enough hair to weave a long braid to escape) and only one way to break the spell – a froggy/turned into a prince kiss.

Phew! Now there was a long sentence!

But all along it was the Covid-19 corona virus that sent me into solitary confinement and a stupor for over a year. Well, not entirely solitary. Bill was here trying to be the frog prince all along. But it was an evil spell for sure and much like when all the members of the kingdom were caused to fall into a deep sleep and then nothing in the kingdom worked.

Now suddenly the frog became prince and we are free! The spell seems to have been broken. I have been given a twice injected magic elixir that rendered me immune. And even Bill, the froggy prince, has had his magic elixir injections and will soon be immune too.

People are escaping,

meeting,

dining,

talking

and sharing almost like pre-cursed days in the happy kingdom.

Yes, there is joy in the kingdom but there are remnants of the spell threatening to reconstitute and reignite.

And as I jump for joy (well, not really since I have a bad hip) and begin to harbor ideas of entertaining friends and family, there is a dark foreboding that this Once-Upon-a-Time fairytale story may not be over until it is well, over.

Thus, since he is handy and immune, I am keeping the froggy prince around to guarantee awakening.

Photo by Ksenia Chernaya on Pexels.com

My father was a painting contractor in that long-ago time when houses were done with oil paint. I understand oil is still available but mostly folks use Latex now. Dad taught me to use a brush up and down with quality oil paint and then side to side to avoid visible brush marks! He had his own business, carried his ladders on a truck, and was much like the painters today in our little rural community in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

I thought I knew it all about how to choose a house painter because talking to them would be like talking to Dad again. I would join the world of estimates, numbers of men on the crew, gallons of paint needed, scheduling, etc. I knew it all.

I wonder though, what Dad would say to this story of trial and error in the selection process.

We would like to get the outside of our house painted/stained ASAP so the question was, “How do we find someone to do a good job and show up when expected?” In other words, we were looking for a professional, trustworthy painter like my Dad.

First we learned over time to go to friends for shared names and experiences. I did that and got two prospect numbers from a trusted friend who had work done a few years ago.

Neither telephone number worked.

Next I went online and got a name and an immediate response! Wow! Impressive. And Wow! We had an appointment with “Ambrose” (fictitious name) to come to our house the next day.

Meanwhile I remembered a company who did some minor painting for us years ago and although the crew were the biggest scariest looking men I have ever met, they had done a stellar job. So I called that number too. Again, a quick response and an appointment for them to come out the next day.

Finally, my son did a little digging and came up with another name we shall call “John”, who was just as responsive as the first two! And we had another appointment for the day after the first day of appointments.

None of this is very scientific but what the hay, this is country living right? They say three is a crowd but in the case of obtaining bids, I figured three was a reasonable number.

APPOINTMENT DAY

Ambrose showed up and was great to talk to and not only said he did painting but he also does handyman work! We were excited. He went around the house, took pictures and measurements and then said he would get an estimate back to us in a week. That was Monday. Bill liked Ambrose. We were both leaning toward Ambrose but needed to see the other two.

John (another fictitious name) was supposed to come Tuesday but arrived on Monday so he was eager. He is a friendly extroverted talker who quickly convinced us he knows what he is doing, but we were still leaning toward Ambrose. Nevertheless, John produced a detailed estimate by email on the same day. We are definitely not used to this level of professionalism in this heavenly place my Mom called “No Man’s Land.”

Finally, the big big guys who had once done some work for us came out and remembered us and our place. We were hopeful and were leaning toward them since we already had a record of their great work in our house. These fine fellows are what people around here call “locals” and of course they, in private, call the rest of us “foreigners” since we were not born here. True locals have a Virginia dialect that is sometimes difficult for us foreigners to understand but we all managed to communicate and they promised to produce an estimate next day.

This they did.

But their quote was twice as high as John’s. Their quote was very very high.

Nix the Big Guys because they were just too expensive.

Ambrose waited a whole week to contact us again. He did call in precisely seven days to let us know he had not done an estimate and to announce that he was too booked up to take on this project. Huh?

Nix Ambrose because he said he was not available.

And so we are now committed/contracted to have our house painted in late May by John.

We trust John,

we think.

I will keep you posted on this yet-to-be-begun project but at least you know some dubious steps to find a house painter :

  • Call friends.
  • Look online.
  • Remember good workers from the past.
  • Enlist family members to help.
  • Or you may have figured out that if you live in No Man’s Land, it will be just plain luck if you find a painter as good as my Dad. On the other hand, you may not want to paint your house with oil paint either.

Life and Death

Bill and I are finally both innoculated against the nasty Covid-19 virus. Bill got his second Modurna shot this afternoon and I am almost a month since my last Pfizer shot. We are so relieved that now our son and grandgirls can come and visit and suddenly the world seems open to our presence. We are celebrating life even if we do still wear masks, keep our distance and wash and rewash hands. Life is good!

But two days ago my little brother, Steve, called to tell us the love of his life (our sister-in-law, Vivienne) had passed away. It is impossible to comprehend.

Viv was not only a relative, but a friend, and they were our eager travel companions too. Our last trip together was a river cruise through Germany. Viv was so delighted to be there and to be with us. She was so happy to be walking through the little towns where we docked, and all the cobblestone streets and exploring the old world with new eyes.

And everybody on board loved her.

Nothing new.

Everybody always loved Viv.

My heart aches for Steve and our two nieces, Judy and Christi, and David, her grandson. And although we are celebrating Life After Covid, we are also mourning the death of a beautiful warmhearted, giving sister-in-law who was a vital part of our lives.

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