Grandma’s Table: Current Project

working on Grandma’s table

In talking with my sis a few days ago, I told her about working on the backfill for the retaining wall: loading 3 5-gallon buckets of dirt half full and carting them over in the wagon. She laughed, and said, “Yep, me, too. Grandma method.” I see a lot of my Grandma in me! My project for the moment was cleaning up the front porch, tearing off the railing that was a #didn’t know what he was doing job by the guy who “remodeled” the house. Eventually, we will build a deck out from the porch, with a ramp as well as box steps, but that still is on the back burner for now. It cooled off late yesterday so I headed out to the porch to start sanding the table. I have no idea where or when Grandma got this table. At some point, my dad put a new top on it for her, and it was covered with a skirt and used as a bedside table. I rescued it from the trash pile and used it as a bedside table also. Given our limited storage, it was great for stashing items on the bottom rail since the skirt would hide them.

first pass at sanding off the old paint

It has been on the screened porch for a while now (due to the great kitchen renovation). I plan to glue the leg where it split, and paint it for use on my front porch. I want to open up the porch by removing the railing that does not belong on a house of this style. I will close the opening to the former screen door onto the screened porch, also a gift of #he didn’t know what he was doing. Like Grandma, if I want something done (other than electrical and plumbing) I had best be prepared to git ‘r done myself. I put on my N95 construction mask, turned on the fan to force any dust away from me, and set to work. I will do the second sanding later today after it is cooler and the front is in shade.

removing the old finish begun!

I bought solar lights to cap the post rails at the bottom of the steps, and purchased the paint for the sealer/primer coat also. When the world is in chaos, I find structure and calm in physical labor, where I can at least see an outcome while focused on the task before me.

more purple is my happy place!

Time to get back to work!

Posted in Acts of Restorative Kindness, Country Philosophy, Family, Monday Morning Musings | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Fish and shrimp and a new fan!

Purple is my happy place.

After another really productive few days, I keep seeing progress. In an adapted version of Dorothy’s baked fish from last week, I utilized tilapia and shrimp last night. The tilapia went in the oven with olive oil, a little white wine, 3 slices of lemon, and red pepper, paprika, garlic, salt, and pepper. The shrimp was marinated in a little olive oil with the juice of a lime, garlic, and smoky chipotle, then lightly sauteed with sliced zucchini in olive oil. The juice from the shrimp and the zucchini were abundant so I finished it up with high heat to reduce and thicken the juices. Served over rice, with green beans, it was quick, easy, and delicious.

Rando also installed a new porch fan! The one that was in the house when we bought it had succumbed to the humidity and the blades drooped finally to the point it was unhelpful. I took them off, intending to buy some new ones, but guess what? They did not make them anymore–you know, in the corporate plan of making things obsolete so you cannot repair them. That was a number of years ago, and while we were in process of new kitchen fans, we saw these spiffy outdoor fans in a cage. The blades are metal. I like the Art Deco vibe of the light.

I hustled off to Home Depot yesterday and picked up a few items for outdoor work. It has gotten a tad cooler and I have been able to tackle a few smaller chores long delayed. My To Do list is still pretty long, but the “do the next thing” system is whittling it down.

I hope everyone has had a good weekend and ready for whatever your Monday brings!

Posted in Art Deco, Food and Wine | Tagged , | 11 Comments

Missing in Action

Let me introduce myself again. Things have been really busy here on the hillside and I have gotten a lot done, which did not involve blogging. I miss the connections, but then, when one seldom goes anywhere at the moment, I figure there is not a lot of press devoted to sweeping the sidewalk or scrubbing the shower. Last Saturday was my birthday, and I splurged. Randy grilled steaks, made his now famous Randotater salad, and he and J actually sat at the counter bar and ate dinner with me. It was because I asked them to, but I will take it as a win.

How exactly did I get to be 72 so fast?

The three of us sat around in the kitchen and talked for a couple of hours after dinner–best birthday in years. I made Strawberries Romanoff for dessert.

J had taken my table next door to re-finish and repair. This was one of two pairs of legs for the first dining room suite Mom and Dad owned. We had always eaten in the kitchen at a small chrome and formica dinette. When we moved to Seymour for dad to be closer to his work, we moved into a house that had a dining room and mom wanted a bigger table for when family visited. We had it from 1957 until 1967, and a boyfriend sat on the edge of it (yes, really, who does that? He was not raised in a barn!) and broke it. It was an extra table in the den, as by then we had bought the only house Mom and Dad ever owned, and it had come with a dining room suite which was newer and fancier than Mom’s. Dad did not like to eat in the dining room, but he was okay with eating at the “big table” in the den for evening meals since there were 5 of us. The dinette nook was very small and only held the small dinette (same one we had for as long as I can remember) and 3 chairs. Dad was building furniture and doing carpentry by then and he cut the top two pieces into rounds and attached each to a set of legs and Mom used them for occasional tables in the living room. When Mom moved into the assisted living facility and we had to clear out the house to prepare to sell it, she gave one to my sister and one to me.

Now you might find this next part hard to believe, but two things transpired as this table was moved to Mississippi. First, the table top got detached on the trip home. It was securely padded and wrapped in quilts and covered in plastic, and transported upside down. However, 13 hours driving in the back of the truck seemed to wiggle the screws loose. I repaired it by filling the holes with wood putty and slightly rotating the top. Worked fine as I was the only person who ever ate at the table. One day…Randy sat down, put his elbows on the table, and leaned forward with his weight. Yes, this time, a husband broke the table. As we were moving toward the kitchen renovation, I just stored the top and the legs. When we began unpacking and trying to return to normal, I put the top back on the legs, left it in the living room with nothing on it, and reminded Randy not to lean on it. One day when I went in, the top was missing. Turns out J had decided to take it next door to his studio, repair it correctly, and in the process, refinished the top and cleaned the brass lion’s paws.

We recently bought a new sofa because we were tired of the theater seating that only held 2 people and it had begun to be uncomfortable for both of us. The sofa was scheduled to be delivered today, so most of this week had been dedicated to clearing out the living room and the front porch. Last night was our final hurrah of watching TV in the theater seats. Cue Abby. Abby usually lies by my side and Steffi is usually sitting on the center rest or lying next to Randy. I was chilly and reached for my throw, but it did not take long for me to warm up, and I tossed it to the side, accidentally covering Abby and her head. She never moved or woke up. They have both been a little freaked by all the moving things out of the living room, and the pacing had just tuckered them both.

The new sofa is in the living room. We will see how they deal with yet another change later tonight. Meanwhile, I shall pat myself on the back and toot my own horn for making it another year, being able to still do physical labor, knowing when to let my body recover to work another day, and having the good fortune to be surrounded by caring people and loving dogs and wonderful family, friends, and virtual friends while continuing on my path to becoming a more effective human being. When you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. When you’re blessed and you know it, say thank you.

Thank you to each of you for being a part of my life, whether you are a regular reader and commenter, reader and regular ‘liker’, a kindred spirit, or just the occasional drop-in who happens here by chance. You routinely make my days.

Posted in Acts of Restorative Kindness, Family | Tagged , , , | 25 Comments

Rain, cooler temperatures, more rain, and meditations from the dock

Fishing pier at Lake Patsy

Rain is currently abundant here and cooling things off in some welcome relief from the heat. After the rain let up yesterday, I took the opportunity for a cooler walk.

Almost all the way around the lake, and the geese had not made an appearance yet. The trail rises in a slight incline just before it splits to continue the circle around the lake or head into the park proper and its myriad trails and outdoor sculptures.

And there they were…

After a short water break, I picked up the pace again and cut across to the other side of the trail. After I reached the trail head and completed the first loop, I kept on toward the fishing pier.

Meditations from the dock, for Cathy, then backtracking to the trail head, take the steps to the top of the hill, and then the rain started. Perfect timing for a 32 minute pace through the course and 1.29 miles of pumping up the jam.

It has already rained again this morning and remains overcast with more on the way–time to get jumping.

Posted in Bird Watch, Ecosystem, Monday Morning Musings, Wildlife | Tagged , | 16 Comments

On being productive and meat and potatoes

getting your moorings straight

Yesterday was a very productive day for me. I made major progress on decluttering and cleaning and packing. My kitchen counter bar is once again uncluttered. My desk is partially uncluttered, and the recycle bag is full. I headed off to the park to get in another walk. It was 2 degrees hotter than the day before and the humidity was less by 10%, but it was still a tough walk, accompanied by Bruce Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball. I walked for 20 minutes and called it good enough. I added some stair stepping on the walk back to the car.

the ripple effect

I decided on roast pork tenderloin for dinner, using a new method I recently found online. I made it once before and while it was delicious, I found the chili fig glaze was too much and too sweet while also too hot, so I improvised. The best part is the tenderloin will roast at 450º for 15 minutes. First you brown it in the oven-safe skillet, then pop it in the oven. When it is ready, place it on a platter to rest while you use that same skillet to make the glaze/sauce. I totally ignored the recipe this time and just made a sauce with sriracha chili sauce, soy sauce, Worcester sauce, garlic, & fig balsamic using the taste and correct method I learned from Dorothy’s New Vintage Kitchen. It simmers in the pan juices for 4-5 minutes, and then you slowly pour in a mixture of 2 tablespoons water and 1 teaspoon of corn starch to thicken.

My baked potato was seasoned with non-fat feta and non-fat yogurt instead of butter. Normally I would have included a green vegetable, but this was my ‘simple fare’ night and since R is a meat and potatoes man, I knew he would not complain.

This morning dawned hot and clear again and it looks like the potential for rain today has moved on and I should do the same. Happy Thursday everyone, and stay hydrated!

Posted in Ecosystem, Food and Wine, Wildlife | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

Not Lake Michigan walk

Lake Patsy in the afternoon sun

While Betty and Dan cooled off at Lake Michigan, Katie is getting ready for the beach, and Jane and Rich are off on yet the third great adventure this month with a landing in Iceland prior to heading on to Ireland, my clan is still here in the hot and humid wilds of Mississippi. Yesterday was a relatively cool day as it was in the lower 90s, so when the sun dropped a wee bit at 6, I hiked off to Lake Patsy and Lamar Park. Let’s just say it is better than being in Lubbock or Odessa, Texas on the brown dirt with no trees.

As I have mentioned before, the sun will drop behind the tree line and this little park has a lot of trees and gentle hills so it makes for an invigorating walk with variety. Yesterday I rocked the walk with a little U2 and it is amazing how the music aids in speeding up the pace, or slowing it back. When I stop for a water break (I cannot seem to drink water and walk at the same time without missing my mouth or getting my shirt wet), I still pace in place, or do a rocking knee bend, or something that keeps me moving just enough while I manage hydration intake.

The park was fairly crowded with walkers, runners, dog walkers, kids and their mothers, yoga groups, readers on blankets, and the random picnic table folks. It is always interesting to note how people engage or do not engage as you pass. Nods, smiles, a short wave of the hand vs. eyes straight ahead and no indication they just passed another human. On occasion, I have seen folks so busy looking at their phone that they veer all over the path, and I have to sidestep to avoid their smacking right into me. It is also of note the number of times it happens and someone looks up at the last minute with the deer in the headlights look at suddenly noticing they are nose to nose with me.

I did a 32 minute, 1.32 mile walk with an average pace of 24’24″/mi. It was 91 with humidity of 61% and breathing was steady and regular. I think I am getting the hang of this now, and must say I felt invigorated and relaxed at the same time. How cool is that?

Posted in Ecosystem, Wildlife | Tagged , , | 16 Comments

Monday morning musings

Looks like another day of taking it easy inside–heat advisory until 9. Good thing I finished the mowing last evening. In other news, finally reached the 10 pound weight loss. Perhaps if I would get a little more consistent, it would help. I have kept up the activity as much as possible, being able to walk only 13 times so far in July compared with 15 in June. I do stepping and dancing in the house, but it is not as helpful to me as the walking. I added music to my walking routine, and it is amazing how much more effective it is for me!

I was planning to try Dorothy’s grilled Napa cabbage recipe, but there was nary a Napa cabbage to be found yesterday. Looks like I might have to make the sacrifice and drive to Fresh Market, right?

Posted in Monday Morning Musings | Tagged , | 15 Comments

Into the wilds of Memphis for some halibut…and tequila

Fortaleza Anejo

Yesterday was a rare day for us. We went up to Memphis to Buster’s Wine & Liquor–the mid-town super market for best wines, beer, and liquors you cannot get anywhere else nearby. R rarely drinks and by rarely, I mean maybe 3 or 4 times a year he will have a Randorita or a shot of sipping tequila. He wanted Fortaleza Anejo–a highly rated sipping tequila. Buster’s had it–the closest place without going to California. I wanted fresh halibut, so I could make Dorothy’s New Vintage Kitchen Baked Grouper with Herbs over Polenta. (I know, halibut is not grouper–I will get to that.)

It has been so long since we were in Memphis we were shocked at all the new construction, road improvements, and kept asking if we were on the right road. We might not be able to get an electrical connection the right size for another 7 months but it doesn’t appear that Memphis is in a slowdown! Perhaps that is related to Mississippi being ranked #50 out of 50 states in almost every thing except poverty, racial disparity, adverse childhood experiences, asthma, food insecurity, unemployment, infant mortality, diabetes, obesity, just to note a few. [Please note: that is not MS bashing; you can find those statistics in almost any source you choose. Just stating the facts here.]

We were back home in time to feed Steffi and Abby their dinner, and I fed the kitties and watered flowers, and sat a few minutes on the front porch (albeit, under the fan!) to enjoy a small serving of the Santa Julia organic chardonnay from Argentina that I had discovered while cuz and I were on the Florida camping trip. Thank you, Buster’s! After all the critters had been fed, I went in to start dinner. Son came over shortly and asked “What are you building here?”

Baked halibut with herbs, spices, organic cherry tomatoes; served over rice, accompanied by fresh green beans almandine with truffle butter and fresh asiago sourdough boule. Accompanied by Santa Julia organic chardonnay from Argentina in Stoelzle crystal

I flashed the printed picture of Dorothy’s baked grouper over polenta and explained (as he said “grouper? What’s that?”) that I was substituting halibut and rice for grouper and polenta per Dorothy’s always generous suggested alternatives. I was uncertain if R or J eat polenta, and I had never had grouper but I know we all like halibut. And as I mentioned to Dorothy, I do not have a fish monger. 😢 I reckon the next best thing is to drive to Germantown to the Fresh Market and visit the fish counter, which I did. Nice as he was, pretty sure that young man at the counter was not a genuine fish monger, but I am willing to be wrong. I do love the awesome selections of fresh organic produce, the meat and fish options, and the bakery there. Well, to be truthful, I love everything about that store including the range of pasta, sauces, condiments, and other items ad infinitum. Back in the early days of living here, we traveled to Memphis once a month to get holistic dog food and always made the final stop at Fresh Market Germantown. It is a small store, but packed with all the items I dearly love to cook, eat, and drink.

Once the fish was in the oven baking, it was just sit back and reflect on the wonderful day R and I had enjoyed, the glorious relishing of seeing and doing something different from the normal routine of the last 2 years, and the pleasure of interacting with live humans who were smiling and talking to us. I mentioned we needed to start doing that again, at least once or twice a month–not necessarily Memphis, but to take a day trip somewhere together to just relax and enjoy time off the hillside.

Thank you again, Dorothy, for a tasty, healthy, amazingly easy entrée that was the perfect ending for a perfect day.

Posted in Acts of Restorative Kindness, Family, Food and Wine | Tagged , , | 22 Comments

Stuck on Tuesday

Stuck behind the bus of life

If you have ever been stuck behind the bus of life, you know that there are times there is just nothing to do but wait. If you want to know the rest of that story, you can find it over at the original Suzasippi’s Lottabusha County Chronicles, my first blog. It is about road construction, what can go wrong, and the important lesson you can learn from a guy whose job is crawling into sewers.

Today, I am mostly literally stuck on Taylor Hill. The road that runs from Oxford to Taylor and right past our house is closed today for repairs from 8-5. We do not know where the repairs start or stop, but the road itself is 8.9 miles long. The signs announcing the closure were at the city limit mark, one on each side of the road so you could see it going or coming. Randy speculated that it was the portion inside the city limits as “they won’t do anything about the county.” It’s all the county since it is all in Lafayette County, but still, most of the money and effort does goes into Oxford, and likely for understandable reasons–it is the bread and butter of the county. I speculate it makes no sense to put the sign at the city limits so you can see it going into town from the county, and going into the county from town unless that is where you plan to start/end. There is no sign at the beginning of Taylor Road itself until you reach the city limits. To confirm that, I suppose I could have driven down to Taylor and see when the warning starts or ends that direction.

Really and truly, I do not have to go anywhere today, and I planned it that way the first day I saw that sign saying the road would be closed. Barring having an emergency, that will be fine. But speaking of emergencies, for the now 19 years we have been here, a minimum of once or twice a week, the ambulance goes down the road past our house toward Taylor. I always think there must be someone further down who has some serious illness, because I cannot really fathom that in the normal day to day routine, that many accidents or cardiac arrests occur somewhere along this road between me and Taylor. So yes, my mind goes to places like that. Meanwhile, it seemed like a good time to continue with all the catching up needed around here.

After I headed to the grocery yesterday to get anything we needed for today’s respite on the hill, I also generated the motivation to cook dinner. While I am primarily plant-based at the moment, and R and J have been uncomplaining about the change in eating options, I do add in fish or chicken a time or two a week. They are both quite capable of feeding themselves one way or the other. They can cook (they generally do not, but they can!), order take-out, nuke a frozen meal, or make a sandwich all by themselves. It does tend to endear me to them the tiniest bit when I fix something they both like and they both like chicken and fish. Last night’s offering was a thin chicken breast cutlet with a peach-fig glaze, served on quinoa, with sides of zucchini or broccoli and a sourdough tomato-rosemary focaccia bread. It was delicious, and as always, I enjoy the opportunity to sit at my personal restaurant table and enjoy a tad of ambience while I am dining.

I worked on art for a new card, played a few word games, and called it a night. Today is cooler and the menu for tonight is the black bean burger stuffed portobello cap. I might be stuck behind the bus of life temporarily, but it just creates the opportunity for an alternative. It’s all good.

Posted in Country Philosophy, Food and Wine | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

View from the window

In the face of a merciless overload during “that fall” one of my beloved colleagues said to me:

You do not have to fix 20 years of mistakes in 1 semester!

We were facing daunting expectations, were short staffed, leaderless, and the burden fell heavily on 2 of us with the knowledge, skill, experience, and values to steer through the storm. I relied on the one thing that always helped me navigate through chaos: Just do the next thing and cross it off the list. I trusted myself that I could do this, and rather than piling on the forces swirling through that fueled the sense of helplessness and overwhelm, be able to help people see the possibility these events opened up for us. On the morning I wrote the above sentence in my ‘reminders’ block of the date book, I also wrote for my goal of the week:

Stay alive. Self-care.

That did not mean I had any intention of doing other than staying alive. It meant taking care of myself was essential in order to take care of the other things on the list. It is like the parable of the hole in the cup. No matter how many times you fill up the cup, if it still has a hole in it, the water will continue to pour out.

We did survive that difficult time. We did forge better relationships and help each other to learn in the face of difficulty. We had a number of successes in revising goals and the vision of our work and collaborating. It felt tighter and righter than in a long time. I was proud to be a member of that team. After all, no one needs the guy in the theatre yelling fire when there is not one.

Sometimes of late, it is hard not to think there are a lot of folks screaming fire in the theatre when there is not one, while at the same time the forest is burning down and no one is paying attention. It is like looking through a window in a thunderstorm–everything past the raindrop is a little blurry.

When that happens, I find I need to look at the blur and see what that tells me. If you have read my writing much, you know that symbols are significant to me. All language is symbolic, but unless we share the similar meanings for those symbols, it interferes with communication. All chairs do not look the same, but we generally understand the concept of ‘chair’ and that it is something you sit on. It might be a box, a stool, a porch step or a fancy velvet upholstered antique, but we do the same thing with it.

While there has certainly been a degree of chaos in my life since retirement (the renovations, the issues with the studio that is still not completed, etc.), sometimes it seems harder to find the meaning in it all and the general thought that it is indeed not something which we can control. After all, I cannot do a single thing about the fact that it is now going to be February of 2023 now before the electrical connections we need to finish the studio are available. I cannot do a single thing about the fact that one-half of a 5-gallon bucket at a time, I have to haul dirt over to finish the retaining wall and that every time it rains, it means it compacts and I have to then haul some more dirt over. My porch needs to be rebuilt. I still have a giant refrigerator freezer side-by-side in my living room, waiting to be moved next door. And kudzu is still growing on the hillside, as it will be as long as anything stands still.

What do you see when you look past the raindrops to the blur beyond? Or is the blur a welcome smoke-screen?

Posted in Acts of Restorative Kindness | Tagged , , | 12 Comments