Saturday, March 10, 2007

Happy Anniversary!

This week was a week of important anniversaries for me. Hubby and I celebrated our 8th anniversary this past week, and today is Mom and Dad's 51st anniversary. As echoed in the words of Brad Paisley's song Two People Fell in Love below, I'm glad Dad could not resist Mom's charms and we (Big Brother and Little Brother exist).

I'm glad your dad could not resist
Your momma's charms and you exist
All because two people fell in love

You know to me it's all so clear
Everyone of us is here
All because two people fell in love (lyrics accessed here)

Rumor has it that Dad did try to resist Mom's charms, but it just didn't work out for him. He supposedly took her out one last time to gently let her down (any female would use the word "dump" here), but fell in love instead and the rest is history. Thank goodness.

Here we all are, I'd say about 1966.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

New Boat – continued, New Truck

Well, we got back the next week and the salesman warily loaded us up, backed into the lake, and off we went. It was great. The boat performed like a dream. It turned when told to, went fast, went slow, didn’t overheat, everything was great. We hooked up our now tiny Explorer (it had been our “big” vehicle up ‘til the day we saw it hooked up to the new boat), and started the long and winding road home – I promise that is the last time I’ll use that phrase for awhile. We were pleasantly surprised that the Explorer pulled the boat all the way home without a hitch (besides the one it was hooked to), even up our mountain. Next began the 5 year process to get her outfitted just the way we like her. That is an educated prediction – it took us about 5 years to get the previous boat just the way we wanted it, then we sold it.

We cleaned it within an inch of my life (see previous blog – elbow injury occurred while cleaning boat), then started the overhaul. Currently, the outside seats have brand new vinyl, the inside cushions have all been unstuffed, washed, restuffed and restitched where necessary. The trailer has been revamped to better fit the boat – they weren’t made for each other. New radio and cup holders have been installed. And new carpet is here, but not yet installed.

We actually took it out twice with the Explorer - once in December and once in January. The first time, no real problems, but the second time, I had trouble pulling it out of the water, even in 4-wheel drive. Later that same week, I had to drive the Explorer to work to pick something up bigger than our other cars could carry. It was acting funny. It didn't seem to want to go into reverse at lunch. Again, in my parking lot at work it hesitated before going into reverse, and again for drive. I handed her over to Hubby after work, and it did the same thing to him. Transmission was dying. In the past, Hubby had two different transmissions rebuilt, and neither one lasted more than six months. We had a friend recommend a particular shop and called for quotes. $2000 to rebuild the transmission - OUCH. We decided $2000 would go a long way toward the purchase of a bigger stronger towing vehicle and started shopping. We found several junkers in our price range, and three times, we found what we thought would be a great truck online, only to call and find out it had just been sold. Then, Hubby found the greatest truck online just up the road in Cleveland. I called and talked to a salesman and got a preliminary value on trading in the Explorer (yes I told him about the failing transmission) so off we went on Saturday to look it over. Long story short, the truck was in great condition, the Explorer made it all the way to the dealer even with the faulty transmission, and we left with the truck without breaking the bank. While it isn't a supersized truck by any means, it's big enough to pull the boat and we are very happy. Ram 2500 4 x 4 by the way.

Friday, February 09, 2007

New Boat

A few months ago, Hubby and I began looking at new (to us) boats. We have had a center console high sided fishing boat for the past 5 years, and thought we might be ready to try something new. At first, we were looking for a cuddy cabin boat with walk-around deck, but we weren't finding any used ones for sale anywhere near where we live. Next we began looking at other cuddy cabins with a long back deck to allow plenty of room for fishing. In October, we found a place near Lake Lanier in Georgia that had dozens of used boats for sale (Marine Liquidators if you are in the market for a new to you boat). So, even though it was a long and winding road, we decided to trek down there for a look around. We had seen one particular boat that we thought might do the trick, but knew they had several in the same category. We found the one in question, and three or four more like her, all with minor flaws, but not too bad. We crawled up onto the decks - which was a pretty big feat since they had boats stacked almost on top of each other with little room between - and down into the cuddy cabins. Once inside, I could usually lay down comfortably, but would never be able to sit up in bed without hitting my head. Hubby is considerably larger than I am and had to kind of wriggle into place to get in a position where he might could sleep. He's quite tall, so his legs hung off the end of almost every berth. We looked around a bit more, asked about prices on a couple of boats, and decided to go to lunch to talk about our options. We were worried about the closeness of the cabins, plus the amount of work needed to make each boat lake-worthy. We came back from lunch to take another look, and out of the corner of my eye, I caught another glimpse of this beautiful red and white cruiser I had noticed all morning. Hubby had told me many times before, and today as well that cruisers were not the kind of boat he wanted...not enough fishing deck. I knew we would never get it, but just wanted to see what it was like inside - it seemed huge from the outside and I was curious. I started climbing up the back onto the deck, and Hubby followed. The deck was pretty nice, two tiered with a captains seat, side passenger seat, and open back area about 3' by 6'. As I opened the cabin entrance and started down the stairs (yes stairs), I was astounded by how roomy it was. The cabin included the largest v-berth we had seen that day, plus a sort of 'fridge, alcohol burner and sink for a kitchen area, as well as a bathroom complete with marine head and shower. Also, the area under the main captain's post on deck was a small aft cabin behind the stairs complete with closet area with hanging rod. The v-berth converts by day to a couch and love seat. We sat down and had plenty of head room. I didn't even have to bend over to walk through the cabin, though Hubby did. The long side of the v-berth was actually long enough for hubby to completely stretch out in, while the short side was perfect for me. We both fell for it hook, line, and sinker.

Out we crawled again to talk to the salesman. Surprisingly, the price was within our range. Just to be sure, we crawled back in one of the traditional cuddy cabins - we were sure. We placed a hold on the boat and drove back home to clean up our old boat for sale, call the credit union and start making plans. The only thing we weren't sure of was how it would run. They had cranked it up for us, but we wanted to be sure it worked well. We called the salesman and made arrangements to have him take us out on the lake the next weekend and test drive it before making our final purchase decision. Back down the long and winding road again we went that day. They had the boat all hooked up for us and ready to go to the lake. We rode over, put the boat in the water, started her up and listened to the purr of the engine (260 Mercruiser I/O). It sounded great. The salesman pulled out into the lake, past the no wake zone, and let her rip...for about 5 minutes, then she shut down overheated. We slowed her down a bit, the temp hand cooled off, and we started off again. Now Hubby took a turn at the wheel. We got her going again for about 3 minutes, then she overheated and shut down again. At this point, the salesman, who is also a boat mechanic, decided it was a bad impeller in the foot and said he and the other mechanic could fix her very quickly. We went back to the shop and Hubby and I went to lunch while they replaced the foot and the impeller. Back to the lake we went, loaded her in and started her up. The engine started up great and off we went, but the boat seemed to be heading off to one side on its own. The salesman tried to turn the other way, but the boat just turned in circles. No matter what we did, we could only turn one way and we couldn't go straight. After a long while, another gentleman came along in a boat and towed us back to the boat ramp. The salesman and mechanic determined that the steering rack had died and said maybe they had one back at the shop. They did, and they worked like Trojans to install it (this actually took a long time), but eventually we were back on the way to the lake. As dusk began to fall, we climbed aboard one more time and took off from the ramp. Everything ran great for about 5 minutes, then the boat overheated and shut off. I thought the poor salesman would jump overboard, but he just threw up his hands and said "I quit". Then he crawled into the motor bay one more time and determined that the overheat was being caused by a busted hose on the engine. He cussed a bit, but we asked if it could be fixed, he said yes, but it would take a week. We told him we still wanted the boat if they could fix it, so he took it back to the shop and assured us it would be ready the next week. At that point, he headed off for a very late birthday get together with his daughter (I felt terrible for making him late), and Hubby and I headed back home up the long and winding road.

I'll write more about the boat next week, but won't keep you in suspense - we bought the boat the next week.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Oatmeal, Food Memories, and Grandparents

Recently, one morning at work, I was eating a rather boring cup of "diet" oatmeal, and we got into a short discussion on the different ways people fix their oatmeal. Our graduate assistant says her problem with oatmeal is that she only likes it with lots of sugar and butter. Another coworker said she also likes hers with butter, and I found myself telling the story I see in my mind's eye of my grandfather (maternal) sitting down to his bowl of home-cooked oatmeal (I've never had any as good as my grandmother's since she passed away many years ago - she said the trick was the salt).

Granddaddy would take a bowl about 2/3 full of oatmeal, sprinkle white sugar over it (I prefered brown), then take an entire piece of buttered toast and tear it into crouton sized pieces and spread that over the oatmeal. Next, he took the cream pitcher (really just milk) and poured milk over the oatmeal, sugar and toast until the milk nearly spilled over the edge of the bowl. You had to make sure you got your milk before he did, or you'd have to get up and go back to the 'fridge for more. By the time he ate it, it looked kindof like cream of oatmeal soup with lumpy croutons in it.

This memory is as fresh in my mind as what I wore to work yesterday - actually, I'm not really sure what I wore to work yesterday, so I guess it is fresher.

I've been mulling this over and thinking about how many strong memories we have that are tied to food and meals and frankly, the kitchen or dining room table. As strong as the memory of my maternal granddaddy and his oatmeal (and his milkshakes, and hand-rolled cigarettes - tobacco by the way) are my memories of my paternal grandfather fixing a breakfast tray to take to my granny in bed. He brewed coffee in an old-fashioned percolator, even after coffee makers hit the scene. For the record, my mom always said his coffee was more like battery acid than a beverage. I don't guess I ever tasted it, but I remember it being so dark you couldn't see the bottom of the spoon. He would scramble eggs and fix toast. He actually did quite a bit of cooking. My favorite was the mornings he would take day old (or more) doughnuts and put them on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven until they were hot and the sugar was all melted and bubbly. I remember that taste, and along with it the memory of him fixing them to this day.

My grandmothers come into this too. A few weeks ago my mom and I were talking about her mother's homemade caramel icing and I told her (Mom) I can still see Grandmomma standing in her kitchen cooking that icing. After it began to boil, she would drop a few hot drops from a spoon into a coffee cup of cold water (a specific rose pattern china by the way) and would kindof stir that dab of caramel around with her finger nail. If it crumbled or scattered in the water, we boiled awhile longer, until it formed what she called "soft ball" stage, then we stopped cooking and cooled it just long enough so it would spread on the cake without running off the sides onto the plate. My dad's mom would cook the best gumbo I've ever had..., plus I remember sitting in the kitchen more times than I can count while she and a lady who cooked for her made the best sugar cookies you ever ate. I actually managed to get this recipe, but have never been able to make the cookies as well as they did.

Now, these are all really nice memories for me. In addition, I have tons of memories of my family growing up as we worked in the kitchen, or sat around the table at dinner. What bothers me is that I'm afraid in this new fast food, fast paced world we live in, we will lose these moments to make such strong memories.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Coffee Mugs and other collectibles

Many of us have a series of things that we collect through life. I'm not a big collector, but I have a few things I like to gather. Just to confirm, a big collector is someone like Big Guy (my little brother) who collects shot glasses and has hundreds of them. He used to have comic books too, but may not anymore...I'm not sure. I do know that at one point he had enough that he could use their assessed value as capital toward a loan.

I don't so much collect as I have a few recurring favorite themes. Sometime back, I realized that my Christmas tree had more Angels and Bears than other ornaments. Not long after Hubby and I met, I must have told him about this (we did meet near Christmas time) and I am now the proud owner of at least two (I think 3) bears with angel's wings. While Christmas ornaments are the majority, I also have these two characters in non-Christmas items as well. Sitting here at my desk at work (on my lunch hour by the way), I can see at least two bears and two Angels decorating my office. There is also a hummingbird, which is another of my favorite figurine types, though I've never seen a hummingbird Christmas ornament.

But anyway, to get back to the main topic, the other thing that I collect a bit is coffee mugs. I have six in my glass case here in my office (one has an angel on it) and probably another 15-20 at home not counting the ones that are part of dish sets. I have them from several places I've visited over the years, and a few funny ones that were gifts. The two funniest are "Where's the d*$^ Fairy Godmother when you need her", and the "Make yourself at the dishes" each sporting a rather frazzled looking housewife.

My two favorites however, are my Nescafe cup and my Ben & Jerrys mug. Remember the old commercial with the guy on the big sailboat who comes out on deck with his crystal clear coffee cup with the map of the world etched on the outside? He's drinking Nescafe by the way, as it was a Nescafe commercial. I loved that commercial, and I wanted one of those cups like crazy. My mom found one somehow and bought it for me decades ago. It no longer has the map imprint on it, just clear glass to the casual observer (but I still see the map every time I drink from it). This is my Saturday morning coffee cup. I usually get up earlier than Hubby and fix a small pot of coffee and relax with my favorite mug and a good book. My second favorite is a royal blue clear/translucent Ben & Jerry's mug that the Big Guy and Mrs. Guy bought for me at the Ben & Jerry's plant (I think) a few years ago. It is a larger mug than the Nescafe, and reserved for days when I'm going to only have one cup, but want it to be a good one.

I have a couple of other "favorites" that I use pretty often, but you can bet that everytime the dishwasher is run, those two will be in there getting ready for their next use (I've even been known to wash one or both by hand in an emergency).

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Back Again

Well, the past few months have been wild and wooly. I've spent most of my life healthy as a horse. Besides a busted chin at five (jungle gym at church), busted hand at fifteen (night skiing in North Carolina), I've spent the majority of my life away from the emergency room. One brief day surgery on a bum knee in my twenties, and except for a brief stay at birth, I hadn't spent a night in the hospital in over 4 decades.

In August, I had the misfortune of being the shortest, smallest person in a group around a handful of jittery horses. Rumor has it the biggest one bit the smallest one (lucky for me he was little as horses go), and the "little" horse in his effort to get away from the bully chose the path of least resistance - meaning through me. Since while small, I'm still solid, he couldn't actually get through me and instead had to go over me. Luckily for me, the only place he actually stepped on was my ankle, lucky again at the thickest, strongest spot. Off to the Emergency room we go. No major breaks, one tiny hairline, but still off my game for a couple of months.

Less than a week before I was due to "graduate" from the orthopedist, my elbow got red and ugly and looked like it had swallowed a golf ball on the day after Thanksgiving. Another trip to the emergency room to be diagnosed with cellulitis and given massive oral antibiotics. Unfortunately, they didn't seem to do the trick and by Monday morning, the redness had spread to wrist and above the elbow and my GP decided it was time for IV antibiotics, and a visit from the orthopedist. I half-heartedly tried to convince him that I had an appointment with Dr. Bones the next day, but he said I had to see him right away - that he would send him to the hospital...which is where he sent me. Surgery the next day to drain the elbow, then four more days of IV antibiotics.

Finally, as we enter 2007, I'm mostly well again and ready to get back on my game. The ankle is strong and mostly doesn't hurt, the elbow gets better every day, and I'm looking forward to staying well for awhile.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Enchanted Scarecrow

As the weather starts to cool, and fogs mist the valley each morning, I feel the need to decorate my yard with harvest and halloweeny things. Despite my bad experience the last time I bought one of the cute 6 foot scarecrows, I bought another one this year. First the previous bad experience. Someone actually stole my adorable scarecrow from the end of my driveway. Luckily, the thief left my bale of hay and my three pumpkins, but they somehow looked lost without their scarecrow to watch over them. This year, I decided to protect my investment a little better and placed the new scarecrow at the top of the teardrop in my driveway, instead of at the end of the driveway. For those readers who've never been to my house, this is a good distance off the main road, and within sight of my rather hysterical dogs. This particular scarecrow is designed with a bamboo rod as a backbone, which extends on down to act as a post. It is attached by a string to a much larger bamboo pole, which is hollow and pointed on the end. You shove the large bamboo pole into the ground, then slide the smaller backbone pole in to hold up Mr. Scarecrow. So why the title? Nearly every morning and evening when I come out of the house, or drive into the driveway, my scarecrow is watching the yard in a different direction. When I first placed him, he was set to watch the top of the driveway toward the street (west). That first afternoon I came home, he had swiveled around to watch the bottom of the driveway (east). I thought he must be a bit top heavy and had rotated to the downhill side during the date. But no, the next morning, he was turned toward the house as if to watch the dogs playing in the yard (south). Then another evening when I came home, he was staring intently across at the neighbor's property (probably trying to see the new house she is building - north). I've decided that rather than being spooked by his erratic behavior, I'll just be thrilled that he is keeping such a watchful eye on our property.