Friday, March 30, 2012

Collinsville, CT - more than I thought!

For years Collinsville has been where I take a right over the bridge, glance quickly at the empty mill buildings, re-focus rapidly on the kayak store, make a left and forget about Collinsville until I go home two days later and reverse the order.

Today was different.

I knew that there was a small store just after the bridge that crosses the wide water falls that specializes in energy efficiency products. I had paused there once before but it was closed and this was the first time that the store was open when I was passing by so I stopped in to see what they had on hand.

After a few minutes, I found what I was looking for but was informed that they only accepted cash or check. (Checks? Who carries their check book with them any more?!) The proprietor informed me that across the road and up the hill was the "Collinsville Savings Society" which had an ATM on the side of the building. Since he had a slight foreign accent, I assumed that in Brussels (or from wherever he hailed) they referred to banks as "societies" as I had never heard this term before. He assured me that it was walking distance and having been in the car for ~3 hours by that time, a little stretching of the legs up the hill sounded pretty good.

Upon rounding the bend and arriving at the foot of the main street on the other side of the road, I found a utterly quaint downtown laid out before me. A market and deli with outdoor cafe seating was on the left side of the street complete with an older fellow unpacking a fiddle and some other tiny stringed instrument. The right side of the street had an old building with a variety of businesses in it including a place called "Flea Circus" which beckoned me with its unusual name and descriptive bullets saying "Items. Objects. Art. Stuff." (or something like that) Further up on the left was, indeed, the Collinsville Savings Society - a bank. As I exited the ATM, the clickety of hard-soled shoes on granite steps caught my attention and held it with his snappy attire including a real bow tie, wing tip shoes, and... I'm pretty sure I wasn't hallucinating... A pocket watch tucked and chained inside his three piece suit. I looked around to see if there were movie cameras because this place TRULY looked like something out of "The Truman Show" or some other film depicting an idyllic small town. It was complete with picket fences, freshly painted white houses with perfect green shutters and blooming daffodils, and a sloping brick-faced main street with a view of the river.

I slowed my pace on the way back down and, having started my day in a very cranky mood, made myself take notice of this little slice of small town-ness right on the path I've beaten between my home and my family's home for years. Right here - a sandwich shop for a good bite to eat instead of at the Dunkin Donuts or MacDonalds just down the road. A "savings society". An energy efficiency store. A gallery or two. Picket fences and idyllic scenery. Right here all the time!

I, of course, had to swing into Flea Circus for a peek and found that it was their first day in business! I was inches from swooping up the perfect baby gift for some VT friends due with baby number 1 in October but it was not for sale (unless I could guarantee the shop owner that when she has babies she can come over and photograph her kids in it). Dying to know what it is, eh K? :-) Well... It's a very old green tin baby tub that looks like a metal recliner. It's very cool! But despite my best efforts, it was not for sale. :-( I did find some very cool, very large metal hooks perfect for our coatrack projects so I scooped them up before heading back down the hill to make my purchase at the energy store and hit the road.

Again, despite being grateful for my brother's successful surgery the day before, I had been having a VERY hard time shaking my deep crankies but this short stop in Collinsville did the trick!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Egg Muffins - no Mc

I recently saw a few different recipes for low calorie egg options for breakfast that interested me but I needed to healthify them so I can't post a specific link. Last night we decided to give the healthified version a try. Unfortunately for my husband, I was on call for work and as soon as we pulled out the ingredients, I got a call and left him to the preparation. Lucky for me, he's completely at ease in the kitchen!

When I returned, he had already assembled the ingredients so I'm not sure of the exact measurements of each item but our safe estimate is that each of these little egg muffins come out to about 115 calories. Perfect for a quick, healthy, filling breakfast!

He used 12 eggs and filled nine large muffin cups with the egg. Then he added some diced orange peppers, chopped (fresh - not frozen) baby spinach, ~1/4 of a part-skim mozzarella cheese stick cut into slices, 1 tsp "Real Crumbled Bacon (Hormel 25 cal/1tbs), pepper, and nutritional yeast.

We baked them at 350* for about 25-30 minutes (we didn't really follow a specific recipe so we just kept checking it and took it out when they were firm).

My husband had them for dinner (I had been given a big bag of fresh fresh fresh sea scallops so, as the only seafood lover in the house, I indulged in those with some fresh asparagus) and he thought they were pretty wonderful! We then had them for breakfast this morning and they were quite tasty! The peppers and bacon gave it such great flavor - even my step-son who doesn't like veggies ate a few for an after school snack.

They end up with the consistency of a quiche without the added calories of a crust - perfect! Sorry - no pictures of ours but this is a picture of a recipe that most closely resembles what they look like. Maybe next time I'll remember to photograph them before they get gobbled or wrinkle up in the refrigerator.

Friday, March 23, 2012

His wish is my command...

Okay - that's not really QUITE how it works in my marriage but I am of the philosophy that if your spouse tells you that something is irritating him/her and you have the time/power/resources to fix it... why wouldn't you?

A few weeks ago on I saw a really wonderful, life-changing spice organization rack system (which I found on for $6.99 + shipping). Since my husband is always grumbling (okay - he's only said it about 8 times in 4.5 years) about the number of jars, canisters, and bags of spices that he has to sort through to get to the one thing he wants under the jumble, I ordered them (one set holds 20 containers).

We are tall people so our spice cabinet is above our stove... and above the microwave so it's pretty high and a tad awkward to reach into without knocking 47 things over. Last summer when someone stacked the glass jar of smoky chipotle paprika triple decker on top of the gigantic tubs of red pepper flakes and black pepper (seriously... why do I buy these things in bulk?)... it spread its lovely aroma and fine dust into every nook and crevice in our kitchen and dining room as the glass shattered on the tile floor. I found shards of glass for weeks and paprika dust for months. The upside is that the house smelled quite exotic for a while!

So the new racks arrived and sat on the counter for a few days (arriving mid-week is never good for guests or new projects - I just don't have time to attend to them!). Last night when I got home, my husband had unpacked them and inserted 20 containers of Ground Allspice, Ground Ginger, Curry, Cinnamon, Cumin, Pepper (seriously... more pepper!) etc into the clips just to see how they worked. He said, "We've got to DO something about the duplicates!" and proceeded to show me multiple jars of basil, oregano, garlic powder etc. I agreed and did a little ol' soft shoe to try and distract him from the fact that there is also an entire drawer full of spices that he hadn't pulled out. But... he was way ahead of me and said, "I don't even KNOW what's in the drawer but we should donate all of it!" (He's really not demanding, I just use "!" for emphasis.) Donate spices? Yes! His Mason's Lodge has a woefully equipped kitchen with a pitiful selection of spices - perfect!

Today I had workmen in the house finishing up some energy efficiency projects and since they took ~3 hours longer than planned, I had P-L-E-N-T-Y of time on my hands puttering about in the kitchen since most other rooms were covered in saw dust and insulation. Therefore I pulled out ALL (yes, including those in the drawer...) of the spices (and oils... apparently I have a thing for seasoned oils as well) and lined them up with like items on the counter. (Full disclosure admission: In addition to the bulk sized barrel of black pepper, I also had two black pepper tins, four five black pepper grinders [one was hiding on the island], and a Mason jar of red and black pepper corns. Should a pepper famine strike the land, come to our house.) Once I established that an expiration date of 2005 was outside of the acceptable range (unless you are my dad and that is just getting to the perfect stage of rancidness), I married like with like, tossed items like chili powder that was so old it no longer even had a scent, and filled a bag with perfectly good (non-expired) spices for the Lodge.

I peeled the backing off of the sticker on the back of the spice racks and aligned them perfectly (except for the one that I stuck on hastily and a touch crooked - I was distracted. Did I mention the chaos in my home today?) and inserted the 20 items best suited for the racks. Then I organized the multi-step shelf with the rest of the small and medium jars and the open area with the large spice vats and the non-expired oils.

I was left with several baggies of spice rub (and one jar of mystery spice blend that may or may not be Old Bay but it smelled good so it made the cut). For a split second I considered tossing them because they didn't fit neatly in my layout. But the eco-nerd in me won. I just couldn't waste them. I went to the basement and found an old Clementine box (yes, the ones that come for FREE when you buy Clementines!), a couple of screws and some washers. I mounted the box with the top facing out (a mini-shelf!) along the top of back wall inside the cabinet. It holds the assorted random items perfectly!

The organization-nerd in me then took pictures and sent them to my husband at work. He was thrilled! No. Really. He was!

Blurry but you get the idea. Don't zoom in or you'll see
how badly we need new cabinets or that my mom needs to come visit and
have nothing better to do than to wash cabinet faces...
You are welcome for the free advertising, Cape Cod Brown Bag BBQ Rub
(which is delicious, by the way!)
I was going to spare my readers (all four of you) the agony of my blurry photos but heck, if my husband (okay, aside from him I have three readers...) had to endure them at work, then you can too.

I then turned around and saw the empty drawer and knew that I had to fill it. So I rushed out and bought more spices took the multiple vitamin jars off the top of the fridge and nestled them in there neatly. I'll spare you the pictures of that but don't worry, my husband got to see them... at work.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

New gate = Done. Dog = Not happy about it.

Since we moved into our house 4.5 years ago, we've been chipping away at various projects. Because our previous house was a total renovation from the ground up that we completed in 1.5 years and sold the minute it was done, we've taken our time and chosen our projects carefully. One project that kept getting pushed to the back burner was removing, re-aligning along the property line, and re-building a new fence to enclose our back yard. It kept slipping down the list because we have a very well-behaved dog who rarely leaves the yard (see exception below) and even when we... ahem... forget and leave him outside he just sits patiently by the door until one of us jumps up and races to the door upon remembering that he is outside. He is a very good boy!

Recently we found scat in the yard that closely resembled coyote scat and because we know there are several coyotes living in the 300+ acres of conservation land across from our house, it's not unreasonable to think that they have been in our yard. Brody has occasionally both barked at the window and cowered away from it - another sure sign that something scary is out there.

So... with the intention of keeping frightening four-legged predators OUT of our yard, it was time to get on with the next phase of enclosing the back yard.

In the first push to replace the old fence (brought to the top of the list by the huge pine tree that knocked down a huge section of it) we installed ~110' of brand spanking new stockade fence between our yard and our neighbors to the south west. We also added new wire fence to attach the stockade fence to the house and close off the front yard except for the gate which has been an open gap for 4.5 years.

Brody has an addiction. Brian. The neighbor.

Brian lives in the house across the new section of fence and when he pulls into the driveway at night, if Brody is out, Brian hears "Incoming!" as Brody barrels across the yard and jumps into his lap in his van in search of the treat that he knows Brian buys just for him.

I got the marble idea from a post
Enter the new gate.

Today we finished building the new gate. It's a lovely piece of art that we are very proud of! I got part of the idea for the design from a posting that I saw on (we all have our addictions...). Yesterday I spent several hours staining the pieces for the gate a beautiful deep sea blue. Today we assembled it and added the artistic touches.

We live on Cape Cod so waves seemed natural and as we created it we realized that it also reminded us of one of our favorite stops (the Alaska Paddle Inn) on our trip to Alaska last summer. Then (this is part I got from we drilled holes in the upper part of the gate and inserted ~35 marbles that my step-son happily donated to the project (he's 18 and has outgrown marbles as you can't eat 'em, shoot 'em, or drive 'em).

While we were very pleased with the outcome, Brody made his displeasure known as he sat with me while I put the finishing touches on the new art gate. Every time I swung the gate open, he tip-toed out (Yes, our dog tip-toes. Don't believe me? Come visit when he's supposed to stay downstairs while my husband is sleeping upstairs - he waits for me to stop paying attention and tip-toes up the stairs to sneak on the bed for a snuggle) and sat defiantly regally about 10 feet away gazing at the children playing with a puppy in the yard across the street. He looked back at me often as if to say "WHY do we need a gate?!? SEE how GOOD I am?!?!" Then he would get bored and go to the back yard to play with his red ball in the dirt near the burn pile that my husband was tending.

At about 6pm, Brian was due home. Brody can set his watch by this and soon he was seated next to me at the gate staring wistfully through the wire fence as Brian backed his van into place. He looked from me to Brian to the closed gate back to me and back to Brian. How sad. I opened the gate and shouted "Incoming!" as Brian opened the door. I returned to my painting as Brody and Brian went through their evening ritual only to hear "Oh... I see... I don't have any treats so you turn your back on me?"

Poor Brod had endured the humiliation of having to wait to be let out of the gate only to find that his crack cookie dealer was out of stock. He stood sulking and enduring Brian's pleas for forgiveness for a few minutes and then lumbered back to the back yard to play with his red ball again - his only joy now that his freedom has been restricted and his best pal ran out of treats.

Not to worry. He's snuggled on the couch now and seems none the worse for wear and the new gate looks great!

70+ degrees in March...

I am a weather purist. I prefer my winters snowy, my summers sunny, my falls crisp and cool, and my springs lion-to-lamb-like. I live in New England BECAUSE of the delights of each of those seasons, after all!

However... if Mother Nature is taking requests, I'd like a week of weather like this (mid 60's to mid 70's and sunny) in early to mid-March every year (and the accompanying free time as long I am being wishful). Having good weather to knock out outdoor painting and construction projects before the vegetation and insane schedule of the summer sets in is fabulous!

Now... let's return to our previously scheduled lion-to-lamb-like weather because we need some RAIN!!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Maybe her toe hurt...

Whenever I am asked the question "What one person, alive or dead, would you want to have dinner with if given the opportunity?" I always give the same answer - Papa T.. I didn't know my dad's dad and from the stories that people tell me (mostly my mom), he was a lovely man with quiet wisdom and kindness aplenty. I knew many of his siblings (who could also be described that way) but he passed away about five years before I was born.

My mom has told me the story many times of my grandfather pumping gas for a woman at his service station - the woman was exceptionally rude and demanding but he tolerated it and did as she asked. After she left, my mother asked him why he put up with her bad behavior. "Maybe her toe hurt" he responded. And maybe it did. It doesn't, OF COURSE, excuse bad behavior but sometimes you do have to try to remember that everyone is struggling with something. Maybe it's a current issue or maybe it's a past hurt that they just can't get over. Maybe it's big, maybe it's little.. but everyone is struggling with something.

Occasionally I am smacked in the back of the head with my grandfather's simple reminder when I've tired of someone's poor behavior and have gotten angry or frustrated with them. Recently I was getting frequent phone calls from one employee who was rearranging her schedule constantly or calling late at night to find out what her schedule was for the next day. I was getting irritated because she should have taken care of this during the day or she should have held on to the paperwork given to her at the beginning of the week. I let her supervisor know that I was getting these frequent calls and figured that would put an end to it. Later that afternoon I was in the office and overheard how this woman's "toe hurt". She had been raising her daughter's two small children for the past several years because her daughter was on active duty in the military. The children's father had disappeared after doing some time in the brig after an incident while in the military. While the children's mother was deployed in Afghanistan, the father showed up and took the children to the mid-west - far from everyone and everything familiar to them. The kids don't know him (they are ~3 and ~5 years old and he had been gone for years) so the sudden change for them was very traumatic not to mention stressful for all involved. Unfortunately there was nothing that the grandparents could do as the daughter had not done anything officially before her deployment to block the father from taking the children. She assumed that he was long gone and never coming back.

I sat at the desk printing my reports with the echo of "Maybe her toe hurt" resounding through my mind. I had gotten very frustrated with this woman for her lack of organization and forgetfulness all week long... but now that I knew what she had been struggling with at home, I felt awful.

This isn't the only time that this has happened to me. Occasionally I forget Papa's words and let people's actions frustrate or irritate me... and often I get the reminder that I need that everyone is struggling with something.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Saying goodbye...

In the past two weeks, I've had to say goodbye to two friends from college. One passed away suddenly of a heart attack. I hadn't seen her in many years until last summer when she joined in on a group camping trip. She hadn't changed a bit! She was still vivacious and funny and ready to just have a good time with everyone.

The other was killed by an avalanche while skiing in the backcountry in Jackson Hole. I hadn't seen him since 1993 when my roommate and I swung into JH on our way to Montana. We stayed at his little apartment for a day or two, carved pumpkins with him, and had some laughs - as usual. The pull of getting to Montana in time to find jobs took over and we slipped away. I never saw him again but I always wondered what became of him. He also was the life of the party - never unkind, he was always ready to hang out with anyone any time. He pledged a fraternity affiliated with a different sorority from mine but it was easy to forget that he was a KMA brother because he got along with everyone.

A little over two years ago we said a tearful goodbye to another friend who had a minor accident that went bad because of the years he'd spent abusing his body. It was too late before he realized how it had caught up with him.

All three of these friends were 42 years old. I am 42 years old. 42 years old is way too young to be buried or burying friends!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What does my car say about me?

Tonight I opened the hatch of my car and stood there for a minute considering the contents. Here, in no particular order, is a list of the more notable incongruous items that regularly jostle around back there together.

  • A bag of biodegradable utensils and napkins.
  • A camera.
  • A dozen or more reusable shopping bags.
  • A 1970's laundry basket.
  • A collection of 40 or so assorted wine bottle corks.
  • A yoga mat.
  • A pair of hip waders.

I might have rolled into yoga class looking like a bad stereotype in my suburban mama Volvo wagon but I'm pretty sure that I am the only person that had to move my hip waders aside to get my yoga mat out of the car.

Life is full of grand and varied experiences. You have to be ready for anything.