Thursday, September 29, 2016


I have five sisters. They all live in Southern California and I live in upstate New York. Two of them were born, twins, after I had already left home and married. Our two oldest sons are older than my two baby sisters. Those boys love having aunts younger than they are.

I miss my sisters. For most of the happy events of their lives I was absent. I escaped a lot of the bad stuff, too, but all of it leaves me out of the conversation loop sometimes during our infrequent visits. I’m very glad I live in a time when communication is, or can be, instant. Those who deride Facebook have no idea what a boon it has been to someone like me who wouldn’t know half of what was going on in my family if I didn’t read it there.

A few years ago I wrote this poem and I feel this way about all of my sisters. As the years have passed we have grown closer – adulthood will do that. I have many common memories with my two oldest sisters, Shari and Wendy. They’ll understand this poem quite well. If you have sisters or someone who is very much like a sister, I hope this will touch your heart.  

For My Sister

Sister, you always took my side
even when I was probably wrong because
something binds us that goes beyond what
may or may not be the truth.
I’ve counted on your unqualified support
in so many areas of my life,
for so many years of my life.

I look at old pictures and smile then sadness takes over,
because we haven’t become everything we always
said we wanted to be and do. Yet here we are still,
giggling, sighing and raging over all the
troubles and triumphs of our lives.
What would I ever do without you?

Two of my sisters, Shari and Wendy, and one like a sister, Elizabeth, will be visiting us next week as will my brother, Tim, and one brother-in-law, Austin. They’re coming from California and Texas. So I’m taking a two week break from blogging. But I’ll be back mid-October to rally you on towards the holidays.

See you then!

Image: My two baby sisters, Stephanie and Pamela, and me during our sisters Southern vacation in 2011.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Adventures in Spider Land

Isn’t it amazing, amazing I tell you, how stealthy spiders are? And, gosh, the places they choose to live. For instance . . .

Yesterday was the day I decided to take down the sheers in the dining room for a wash. These are the lovely, on Sale at Penney’s, sheers I bought last year in anticipation of painting that room. That hasn’t happened yet but I put the sheers up anyway just to cheer myself. It’s been a while so down they came and I bundled them into my arms and even though they were slip-sliding away in every direction I eventually wrestled them all into the laundry room. Unbeknownst to me I had guests.

With water running into the machine, I added the detergent and began to load the first pair of sheers. As I reached down into the basket, which butts right up against the machine, I came up short. There on the white enamel surface, two inches from my nose, she sat. Or bounced. Danced maybe? Scared the poop right outta me. I popped up quicker than our grand dog when someone yells, “Squirrel!” with my hand over my heart. Where the devil had that come from???

Okay, this was no cute little, almost invisible, critter. Nope. Around here we call these Farm Spiders. About an inch long with soul piercing eyes and attitude. I’ll tell you right now, I don’t squish  the big ones. If I have my vacuum handy I often invite them to the party in my Sears 4 HP Arachnid 7, but yesterday I was without my handy spider sucker. Sooooo – I went for my spider rescue kit. Ha! Bet you didn’t know I had one of those, right? Okay, I made this thing myself. It’s a plastic cup and a recipe card I got from an author who sends recipes if you sign up for her newsletter. It’s made of nice stiff, glossy paper and this one was for crab dip, I think. Anyway, here’s what you do.

1.    Approach spider (I know)
2.    Slap the cup over spider (be quick here, spiders are amazing leapers)
3.    Slide card under cup
4.    Hang there for a second and calm yourself
5.    Lift cup, card and spider TOGETHER and carry outside
6.    Release spider onto the ground, not into the air as this can go horribly wrong with the spider perhaps wanting revenge and jumping onto your leg when you remove the card. Guess how I know that?

I followed this procedure precisely and all was well. Until I found the second one. On the kitchen screen. Probably the first one’s husband. Somewhat bigger and able to slip out of the sheers while I was dealing with his wife. I could almost hear him, “Don’t worry, Blanche, I’ll come for you!”  As he’s dodging my feet, looking for the tall grass. Coward. It was the cup for the mister, too. I imagine she's out there right now aiming one of her eight legs at him. "C'mere, Clive, I have something for you." 

Tune in around Christmas for more adventures in Spider Land. Can’t wait to dig into the plastic bins of ornaments. Perhaps Blanche and Clive's children have re-located there. Better have my Arachnid 7 handy.   

Photo: A spider on our garden post in the early fall of 2014. Go ahead and shiver! 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Of Homes and Houses

Last night hubby and I took a trip to Hudson. We needed some boring stuff at Lowe’s to fix the leaking bathroom pipes (don’t ask). I always enjoy trips at dusk and on the way home the sunset was beyond spectacular. It gave a peculiar light to all the homes we passed on the winding roads out of town.

There were three of them in a row. One lavender, one bright  yellow and one a kind of brownish pink. The lavender house was a little beat up, but I had to wonder at the color. Had the paint been on sale? Or maybe the owner had collaborated with the people on either side to make a colorful display for passersby. Impossible to know, but I’m going with the sale idea.

I didn’t have time to think more about it because soon after, on the opposite side of the road was the brown house. This one had obviously once been a church. You could tell by the windows, cathedral style. That and the double front door was a dead giveaway. Every time I go by I marvel at that window. Just inside the pane you can clearly see a tree. Bare branches, don’t know if it’s real or some gone horribly wrong craft attempt of the householder. But a tree. Really.

A little further on was an old grocery store. You know, the kind every small town used to have where the front door was practically on the sidewalk and the big glass window told you what was on sale that week? Plus they had the best cold cuts and potato salad around. The front is all boarded  up now. But in the brief moment we were in front of it I noticed something. Out of the side of the building stepped two women. They shut the door behind them and walked towards their car. I turned as we passed and saw a light beaming from an upstairs window. Wow, someone had turned the back of this old store into an apartment. How cool.

I’m fascinated by doorways. Last June I had to take a side street in Kinderhook to get around the square which had been roped off for the annual craft and food fair. As I rolled down the street the car in front of me stopped. I looked around as I pulled up behind her and on my left I saw it. A doorway tucked in and surrounded by well trimmed vines, all curled and dangling. The vegetation made a kind of tunnel and an adorable “Welcome” sign hung on an old post near the sidewalk. I had all I could do to keep from hopping out of the car to knock on that door. I imagined a gnome or a wise old owl living there.

We live in a very old house. Lots of them around here. I’m sure when people pass they wonder what it looks like inside. I do that all the time with other  people’s houses. It’s a natural curiosity thing, I guess. When we first bought our place I fell in love with the simple but elegant front hall staircase and the big dining room. And I thought we could whip it into shape in five years or so. Ha! Still working on it thirty five years later. But it’s all ours. It’s comfy and has sheltered us safely for all that time. A house that’s a home, ya know?

Image: Our domicile all decked out for fall. I'm painting the porch steps this afternoon. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Kid's Stuff

Yesterday I had two young girls in my charge. One is ten, the other eleven. I was doing what I’ve done for years and years – trying to think of ways to entertain kids. I did it with my own and I’m doing it with my grand kids. I get paid to take care of one of these young ladies so I pay particular attention to the activities I chose. Her mom is an elementary school teacher and part time college professor. No pressure though, really.

In all my years of child care I’ve discovered an amazing thing. Kids will try anything that has even the faintest whiff of fun about it. They don’t care if it’s a game that’s been around since Noah – like kick the can or Ollie, Ollie, Oxen Free or whatever we may find on the Internet – like bubble snakes or apple gack. It makes my hours with them so delightful.

The bubble snakes were found and created by our eighteen-year-old granddaughter, Elaina, who stayed with us for the month of July. She whipped up these wonders in jig time and  had her cousins squealing with delight and competing to make the longest snake. Guess who was there with the camera? See instructions below the photo if you want to try this.

Cut the end off a soda bottle, cover with a piece of old sock, dip in solution of dish soap and water. Blow. 

Ollie, Ollie, Oxen Free is an old game none of us can remember how to play including Grandpa who is older than dirt. So, yesterday, I had the girls throwing a tennis ball over our low roof and calling out the words to warn the person on the other side that the ball was about to go into orbit. Then they asked . . .

“Why do we yell Ollie Ollie Oxen?”

I had a host of answers in my head like “It’s an ancient Carpathian good luck saying,” or “Cavemen used to yell it when they hurled stones at a really juicy looking mastodon.”  But instead I said, “I can’t remember, just throw the ball!”

We also do milk plates, whip up some colored foam and make funnel cakes. The cakes last about twenty minutes once they’re all sprinkled with powdered sugar or doused with cinnamon and sugar. So far we haven’t lost a single child to the vat of bubbling hot oil that’s required to make them. Might as well teach them when they’re young to be careful in the kitchen. Right?

I’ll see less of all of them now that school has started. I’m a little sad for me but very happy for them. I do have some pity for the poor teachers, though. I’ve set the bar pretty high and smothered it with cinnamon, sugar and love.

I’ll let you know what the kids report. Oh, and if you want to know how to make the foam, milk plates or funnel cakes, I can fill you in on those, too.