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» Saturday, October 31, 2015Morning Treats and Evening Ones, Too
After the wonderfulness [sarcasm alert] of this week, which included being sick on Monday and Quasimodo on Wednesday due to a fall on Tuesday, I was ready for a better weekend. The end of the week did trend better: we had a "fall festival" at work and Friday went normally enough, but sadly James had to work today.
Yeah, I took the opportunity to sleep late. As a Facebook post said, "The best treat this weekend is an extra hour of sleep." LOL. It was nice because I mostly tossed and turned during the night. (Once again I have better dreams in the daytime. Was I nocturnal in a previous life?)
As Aubrey Spivey can probably attest, Tucker's "magic cookies" make him instantly walk into his crate at night. He was down to four. So I harnessed up the "terror," put him on a solid instead of a flexi leash, sat him on a towel in the passenger seat of the car, and took him downtown with me. The parking lot at Cobb Parkway was full, so I worked around the back of downtown and parked at the public lot behind Johnnie McCracken's pub.
Wow. Not only was the Farmer's Market going great guns, but there was a big Hallowe'en event in Glover Park. They had school choirs performing, kids in costume, scarecrows, a big Scholastic Book Fair table, and boxes of free books, mostly children's books, but also some adult volumes. I found an old Dell Yearling book about Ethel Roosevelt; when you see books about Theodore Roosevelt's children they are usually about Alice. The park was filled with families with kids in and out of costume, and even some dogs dressed up. Tucker greeted a pair of schnauzers, many mixed breeds, a shy chihuahua, two toy poodles (one dressed up like bumblebee), a diffident greyhound, and a cocker spaniel. Then, as we were rounding the second row of Farmer's Market booths, there ahead near the Big Daddy dog biscuit tent was a big German Shepherd, even bigger than Tucker's "deadly enemy," the Shep down the street. Tucker did not bark at him, but confidently trotted up until he was about two feet from the big dog, who was standing calmly looking at him, not hostile, just interested. Tucker looked at him for about ten seconds, then retreated behind me. No question who won the dominance game that time.
We walked past the Corner Shop to peek in and say hi to the proprietor, then walked all the way down to DuPre's before returning to the car. Stopped by Dunkin Donuts and got a chicken salad on a French roll for lunch (as I said, not much on chicken salad, but suitably bland for my dang freaky digestion, and the bread is good), then returned home. I think I tired him out. :-)
Later I spent time resetting most of the clocks—Daylight Saving Time being gone, gone, gone finally—and decanting all but one of my calendars (the other is for work and is in my bag) and putting them in place for the New Year. Discovered FX marathoning The Simpsons annual "Treehouse of Horror," so stopped there until it was time for James to come home.
About four o'clock someone knocked on the door. I was busy at the moment and didn't get downstairs until after they'd gone. Figured it was the mailman. Sure enough, the mailbox was crammed with medications James ordered from Kaiser, my coupon book selection from Barnes & Noble (The Santa Claus Man), and miscellaneous mail. I just had them in hand and was heading back to the porch when I heard a shout from down the street and there was big old plush Max lolloping toward me with his kid following behind. I collared him for her and he rolled over on his back to get his tummy rubbed. What a sweetie.
I noticed that our neighbors across the street were out for Hallowe'en (their little boy usually goes trick or treating) and had blocked their stairs with "caution" tape. I didn't have any of that, but used Tucker's long leash to block ours. I hoped this would stop the kids from coming up on the porch like they did the past two years and banging on the door (as late as 9:30!) even though we had no lights on. [It did. I think four houses in our neighborhood had lights on.]
At six I took Tucker outside and when James got home we were off to West Cobb Diner for supper. We were held up for about ten minutes while police cleared yet another nasty accident at Dallas Highway and John Ward Road (there was one yesterday), and then were served almost supernaturally quickly at the Diner. I guess the advantage of going out to eat on Hallowe'en night is that there aren't any crowds out there. We both have turkey leftovers. And I finished the next Mary Russell mystery, The Moor.
Came home to watch The Real History of Halloween, the For Better or For Worse Hallowe'en special "The Good-for-Nothing," and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. (Oh, and more "Treehouse of Horror" episodes.)
» Sunday, October 25, 2015Groceries, Christmas, Books, and All That
It would have been nice to sleep in, but it wasn't to be. We were still both restless and there were things that needed doing, like laundry, since I'm completely out of socks. But the first thing that needed to be done was a trip to Kroger to get some milk in the house, not to mention Those Damn Bananas :-) and sandwich bread for work. We went to the Battle Ridge Kroger because their bread is better, and also picked up some cucumbers, turkey thighs, plain tomato sauce on clearance, a Sunday paper, and...too funny...the small Susan Branch calendar I was looking for in Bunch of Grapes Books on Martha's Vineyard (Branch lives on the island and I still didn't see one). I usually have one in our bedroom. Now the calendar complement is complete.
After putting the groceries away, we went to Walmart to pick up some new diabetic socks and other clothing items. Then we could enjoy ourselves: in the pile of mail from the last eight days, we found Barnes & Noble coupons! James was looking for a book about the history of Dungeons & Dragons that he'd seen up in Burlington (Lord, that store was huge!) and I wanted the new Thoreau mystery. I bought it, too, only to find out there's a volume in between the one I've read and this one. Ah, well, it's not like it's the next book in the queue. I also got a Victorian fantasy/mystery (there were two coupons) called The Lazarus Gate.
I also found the Christmas issue of "Victorian Homes" out, but was disappointed that the three other magazines that I usually buy at Christmas, "Bliss Victoria," "Victorian Bliss," and "Holiday Cottage" were not at the bookstore, although they had been at Kroger. I'd rather wait and get the ten percent off, but I don't want it to be like last year, when I didn't finish reading my Christmas magazines until after St. Knut's Day in January. :-)
By then it was after two, so we had a late lunch at Tin Drum, sitting outside under "our tree" (some type of little Japanese maple that sits outside in an outsize planter), and then, tired, came home.
Later Aubrey came over to collect her house/pet-watching wages. She's a big Harry Potter fan, so we bought her two chocolate frogs at Sanborn's, and, because she's having so much fun conducting baking experiments, a glass mixer ornament from the Yankee Candle Flagship Store. Spent most of the afternoon and the evening watching Alaska: the Last Frontier (after watching an annoying episode of Love It or List It and, later, America's Funniest Home Videos).
» Saturday, October 24, 2015"I'm on My Way Back Home, Gonna Fly..."
Not the most exciting day. Also the one day we had to sleep late and...guess what! Awake by eight! Whatever. We had all the books and small souvenirs we bought to distribute in the suitcases anyway, and we had decided to check the small suitcase because instead of just having the camera to carry this time, I had the yellow shopping bag I brought with me, which had the Sanborn candies, Aubrey's gift, and the camera.
So we had breakfast; some of the wedding folks were still around and there was an adorable little boy racing around the table his parents were sitting at, probably about three. Wish I had all that energy this morning!
When we finally loaded the van, we had a piece of luck: somewhere around Tuesday James' prescription sunglasses vanished. I was afraid they were under one of the front seats which are set high up on a "platform" (it's the only way I can describe it) and there are gaps to the space underneath, but you can't get your hand under all of it. Luckily when I opened the passenger side door this morning, there they were, visible in the gap from seat level to the lower part you can get your hand into. I put them in the yellow bag, too.
Once we checked out, we just headed to the Sixt location in Chelsea. We went through the Mass Pike instead of downtown—right in back of Fenway Park!—and from there it was pretty easy, except for that hard right turn with the construction on it. No getting lost in Everett this time. :-) So of course when we got there they asked why we didn't drop it off at the airport. Well, sigh, because you told me to bring it back there. Anyway, they had the new employee drive us to the airport in the van, and it was probably a good thing we were early because Logan is the hugest complex I've ever seen, and the signs, as in all of Massachusetts, are terrible. I think they're still trying to confuse the British! First we followed the "Terminal A - Delta and Southwest" sign and ended up in Air Cargo. Then we followed it again and ended up in Arrivals. Only on our third circuit did we find Departures, and it wasn't the driver's fault.
He helped us with the luggage and then we started the process of checking in. Instead of one stop for the chair, we had two; the guy outside would only put one tag on it, and we had to go to the airport line (there was no one in it) for the other. (We had to get a third check at the gate.) Then we had to go through security. Unlike Hartsfield, the two laptops had to come out, and they scanned the life out of both James and the chair. I think the folks at Logan have never forgotten that two of those 9/11 airplanes left from their airport, and they're never, ever going to allow it to happen again. It didn't make me angry, but sad all over again.
And then of course we spent over two hours cooling our heels at the airport. We checked out a couple of the newsstands, had lunch at Dunkin Donuts (except they gave James the wrong sandwich; I had the chicken salad again on the French rolls—those are delicious; I need to see if they have them here). About a half hour before boarding I bought our last ice cream from Friendly's.
The flight back was uneventful, but we got no nice view as in last time—cloud cover pretty much down the entire east coast. When we got in, it look a long time for the chair to get back to us; it turned out they couldn't get it up the stairs to the jetway, so they went to another gate and put it on an elevator. We were afraid the plane would take off to West Palm Beach with us still there! (And the last place I want to go after being in sweet cool air all week is Florida!)
A minor bobble getting transportation to the Park-Ride, as the first handicapped bus' chair lift would not work properly. A nice guy in a second lift bus took us and even helped us get the suitcases in the truck. We stopped at Zaxby's on the way home for supper.
I came in first and Snowy gave me a fishy look. Tucker was behind the gate looking almost a little puzzled; then he smelled my hand and darn near tried to cling to it. Once I let him loose when James got in the house, he went wild, jumping on us, circling the room, jumping again, on the chair, off the chair, on his hindlegs to be petted, and around the house again! Y'know, I think he was glad to see us. :-)
Ate our chicken, watched something on TV, and now it's time for bed...
» Friday, October 23, 2015A Million Shades of Blue
Last day. Last day. It has such a plaintive sound.
As always, I was awakened ten minutes early by a call of Nature. I wish I could put Nature on the Do Not Call list, but sometimes you need the bulletins. :-)
After breakfast we headed south on I-95. I did want to at least say hello to my cousin Debbie! Downtown was pretty quiet after rush hour antics and we could appreciate the twisted new intricacy of the I-195 interchange, which is now south of the electric plant and the Fox Point Hurricane Barrier rather than north, leaving a big swath of land at India Point Park ripe for development. Providence is presently trying to talk the Pawtucket Red Sox into relocating to a ballpark-to-be-built there. Watch out, guys, it's a trap!
We also noticed that Nibbles Woodaway, the "big blue bug" on the pest control company on I-95, isn't decorated for Hallowe'en. What's up with that?
So we made our way back to R&D Tool, and there was Debbie, and we hugged and chatted. Richard was inside, working on one of his antique cars. The latest is a black Triumph that he has finished restoring. Debbie had to run an errand, so she took us by the cemetery and I was just rows away the other day. How silly is that? Debbie had put some beautiful fall flowers and autumn leaves on Mom and Dad's grave. It looked very pretty, and of course the beautiful maple trees in the cemetery just added to the lovely serenity. As we left, a funeral was just entering; we had noticed there were funeral masses at both St. Mary's and St. Ann's this morning. I hope both people lived long, happy lives.
I was heading for Newport, but I made a short detour and we stopped at Solitro's Bakery (still going after all these years) and we each picked out a pastry: James a lemon square (he loves them as much as Dad did) and me a cinnamon "stick" which is basically a large version of what Lin Butler makes after she does her Christmas baking: crust made into a flat stick with cinnamon and sugar. No ick on it, it doesn't need it. Just piecrust and sweetening and perfection.
I also got a little Italian torpedo roll, and was happy when they still understood what I meant when I said, "May I have a bun?" We always called them buns.
We went south via I-95 and Route 4, as we had to go to Quonset Point, then turned east on Route 138, over the Jamestown Verazzano Bridge and then the Pell (Newport) Bridge. Narragansett Bay was a deep glassy reflective blue with a surprising number of boats out despite the windy conditions; I suppose if you can afford to have a boat you can afford to take the day off to sail it.
Downtown Newport was very crowded for a weekday as two big cruise ships were anchored in the harbor and tourists were being shuttled over in boats to shop at the Brick Walk Marketplace and at Bannister's and Bowen's Wharves. I would have liked to have stopped at the store Only in Rhode Island! Instead we threaded our way down Thames Street, around the corner and down the road where the statue of General Rochambeau overlooks the harbor, dotted with all manner of white craft: cabin cruisers, sailboats, schooners, houseboats, catamarans. Then we turned down Ocean Drive until we got to Fort Adams.
We didn't know how much of the tour would be accessable, so we didn't go on it, but we did go up to the old stockade, which is now a tiny museum, with memorabilia from the Fort including a Spanish-American War era uniform of a Fort Adams sergeant. The fort was active from 1799 (although rebuilt after the War of 1812) through World War II, and my dad had memories of Fort Adams when he was in the National Guard before going into the Army and being deployed to the European Theatre. It was pretty much abandoned and going to seed when we stopped there for Sunday rides in the 1960s, but historical associations saved it and now tours are given there, and this week there are Hallowe'en events.
Oh, my goodness, the wind! We had to struggle to get out of the van and retrieved our hats and scarves to keep us warm. It came right in over the cove and marina, where more sailboats and motorboats bobbed up and down in the chop. The two big cruise ships could be seen plainly here, one a Princess liner out of Hamilton, the other a smaller line I didn't recognize out of Nassau. But it was wonderful, too--as long as I am warm I love a good cold wind. It makes me want to fly like the seagulls wheeling over the water, and it puts heart into me. I'm simply so worn out by the heat during summer that this makes me feel alive.
After walking about a bit we drove down to Brenton Point and sat in the van with the windows open and ate our bakery goodies. The wind actually seemed less intense here. Viking Tour buses kept showing up, disgorging tourists for about fifteen minutes to take pictures, and then whisking them away again. A couple with a camper were sitting on the steps down from the sea wall. There were a few dog walkers as well. The blue glass of the ocean was peppered with little whitecaps and small rollers crashing against the damp rocks, again dotted with sailing and motored craft, including what looked like a trawler and a smaller lobster boat. The sky was a paler blue, but intensely so, almost hurting the eyes.
We figured finally--although I could have stayed there for the rest of the afternoon!--that we needed real food and had lunch at the Newport Creamery on Bellevue Avenue after cruising slowly by all the "summer cottages" of the 19th century wealthy. There are so many "Christmas in the Newport Mansion" events, and they do decorate the homes, that people forget that these huge homes were only used at most ten weeks during the height of the summer, mostly for balls within "the 400" of society.
Had an American grilled cheese sandwich and onion rings with a little bowl of chicken soup for lunch; James had chili dogs and the soup, and we both had a single scoop of ice cream in a dish as a "chaser." James had their sugarless chocolate and said there was no difference in taste from regular ice cream. I had a coffee that they had particularly gone very strong on the flavor. But then Newport Creamery has always had the best coffee ice cream. This particular Newport Creamery has photos of all the old stores from the 1950s-1960s in the restaurant area, and they had a photo of the old place at Garden City shopping center, which was known for its long glass windows until a car drove into them one day and killed a customer, a little boy. When the building was repaired, the long windows were gone. In the doorway is a photo of the original creamery "milk bar" from the 1920s.
I was particularly amused during the meal by the folks in the booth behind me, three elderly ladies and a gentleman of similar age. They were evidently in town for the weekend and enjoying the shopping, and they were teasing each other about the menu and one woman who was overwhelmed by the ice cream choices. They were also telling a story about someone--maybe one of their husbands--at a gathering who was talking so much that when a particular dish was passed around, complained afterwards he hardly got any. One woman said in tart triumph, "Of course not! You were talking the whole time!" I could hardly keep from bursting out laughing.
We were headed home through Routes 138 and then 114, which would have taken us through Bristol and Warren to I-195, but there was an accident on the Mount Hope Bridge, which is only two lanes, and I was still driving and didn't want to wait. So we went home north through Route 24, which was actually a longer route. I didn't mind driving, but the sun was in my eyes during a lot of the trip and I simply can't take that bright for long. People who wonder why I like it cloudy so much don't know how much the sun hurts my eyes.
So when we finally got into the hotel, I took three ibuprofin and removed my shoes and pretty much slept for the next two hours.
I thought we might have a steak on our last night, but that would have meant Texas Roadhouse and I couldn't bear the noise there. It sounds like the uproar in the bar at the Hyatt during DragonCon. We just went to Friendly's. Every night we've been here someone has had a birthday; it's a popular place, evidently, for a birthday dinner. I like the Friendly's birthday song:
"Friendly's has a birthday song,
Not too short and not too long.
If you're good you'll get your wishes,
If you're bad you'll do our dishes."
When we got back to the hotel, I went to the lobby to use their computer to print out our boarding passes, having already checked in via my phone when we got to the room earlier. This morning I had seen a gentleman carrying some wrapping paper and a gift into the hotel and said, "Someone's having a birthday!" He told me it was a wedding. When we went out for dinner there was a small wedding reception taking place in the hotel meeting room. One of the party was at the desk when I was printing and I told him I wished the couple a happy future.
Tomorrow's another airport day. With luck and love this time tomorrow we will be back with Tucker and Snowy.
» Thursday, October 22, 2015We Shall Go Down to the Sea in...Ferryboats?
Well, we had our day "at sea," but it was a bit shorter than I expected. Evidently clams, or a lot of clams, are now on my list of verboten foods (I think the chowder at Sprouts is still safe). At least I got to sleep through the night, but this morning was a bit rough. Thank God for Pepto Bismol.
So once again we got up early, and I expected to leave about 8:30 to get whatever ferry came around 10:30. We didn't leave until 9:30 and had to fill up the van before we could go anywhere. I'd plotted out the route last night and it was a breeze: Route 1 to I-95 to I-495 to Route 28 down to Falmouth. Except the GPS on my phone kept arguing with me; it wanted me to go part of the way through Route 25. We finally did, but I have no idea why, because we came back via Route 28 all the way.
This is a plain ride, with tree-lined lanes of freeway. The colors have been more muted going east, but there are still attractive patches of color. Route 28 takes you over the Bourne Bridge, which now connects Massachusetts with the rest of Cape Cod since it was bisected by the Canal, and then around first one rotary and then the other, and finally down the road to Falmouth. (I keep laughing every time they put in new "roundabouts" in Atlanta, as if they were some grand new discovery. New England had 'em first, although later a bunch of DOT idiots had them removed. If it wasn't for the rotaries on the road to the Cape, traffic would come to more of a standstill than it does in the summer.)
You really don't take your car to the ferry; instead you take it to a parking lot belonging to the Steamship Authority and they bus you to the ferry. After we partook of the rest rooms, we joined the queue for the bus, which was equipped with a chair lift. The drivers were all very helpful and we had no problem in transport in either direction. Thus we rode to the Steamship Authority Building--don't you love the old-fashioned name, back from the days when Victorians took paddle-wheelers out to the Islands to escape the summer sizzle?--got tickets, and went aboard the boat through the car ramp so we could take the elevator upstairs. Soon we had a lovely if rather sunny, ride topside on the ferry, chugging past swinging red and green buoys, and spying a brilliant blue house onshore south of the Nobska Lighthouse. Between the sky, the sea, and the house--well, you've heard of fifty shades of grey? This was fifty shades, and more, of blue. The breeze and the fresh air was glorious. I kept urging James to breathe as much of it in as he could.
(It was only on the ferry that I realized that I left the camera in the van. Dammit.)
The ferry lets you off at the foot of the hill in Vineyard Haven. Had we gotten here earlier we might have explored more, but by now it was one o'clock and instead we walked up the hill to the town's main street and looked for somewhere to eat. We skipped a couple of cafes and instead picked the Copper Wok, an "Asian fusion" place, which was excellent: if you ordered an entree you got free soup and rice, so we had a rich wonton soup full of little mushrooms, some potstickers as an appetizer, and then James had something Schezuhan and I had sesame chicken. It was very filling, as opposed to the usual Chinese dinner.
Incidentally, the Copper Wok is right next door to a grand Victorian-looking hotel called Mansion House. Restaurant patrons have to use their bathroom, and the lobby and the downstairs rooms are lovely, with an old-fashioned check-in desk of wood and a little parlor in the back with Victorian-style "parlor furniture," and filled bookcases on either side of a fireplace. Looks comfy and surprisingly, at this time of year it isn't all that expensive.
As for the main street of Vineyard Haven, imagine the coziest old fashioned town you have ever seen, like Cabot Cove or a magazine illustration.for a Norman Rockwell story, but put little touristy things like souvenirs, jewelry, summer junk, and other stuff in the stores instead of dry goods, groceries, shoe and dress shops, and hardware stores, and you have the essence of Martha's Vineyard, as I hear the other five towns are similar. You could set a cozy mystery here (and several writers already have).
After we finished lunch, we visited the bookstore, Bunch of Grapes (of course), and I bought an autographed copy of Susan Branch's new book The Fairy Tale Girl. Plus I bought James an anniversary gift, a book he wanted about World War II in Martha's Vineyard. Nice to see a thriving local bookstore with such a nice selection; saw some other novelties, too, including a book about baby waterfowl. Darling fuzzies all.
We stopped for ice cream at Bernie's, across the street from the Wok; I had the usual coffee, but James had orange pineapple--he loved it. It tasted strongly of orange, but had fine pineapple bits in it, like sugar crystals, and smelled like fresh oranges.
After we had walked past all the stores, most with things we couldn't afford or take home, we walked back toward the ferry. It was loading, so we got on, but we loaded so late that we couldn't get to the elevator as the car deck was full. So we went up the gangplank and had to sit inside, since there was no way to get to the elevator from inside like on the other ferryboat. Sigh. We did have a good time talking with a woman who was traveling with her French bulldog. It was very opinionated about the ride, and kept restlessly getting in the face of the man opposite her (he and the woman were evidently familiar with each other and he didn't mind) and trying to go visit the Golden retriever who was asleep on the deck two rows up from us. About halfway through the ride, I did go up on the top deck for about ten minutes. The sky was partially clouded over, steel grey on one side and surrounding the sun in broken bits, so it was diffused and easy to tolerate. I could barely get the door open between the wind and the forward motion of the boat, and it was delightfully chilly when I did get out. I wanted to spread my arms wide when I got up to the bow, to take in the breeze, but I would have looked too much like Rose in that dreadful Titanic. I did take a video so James could see what it had been like and all you could hear was the roar of the wind. Once we passed the bright blue house and the swinging, ringing green buoy, I went back down and waited until we made the dock.
Then it was the return trip--waiting with the others for the bus to the dock (as we stood cooling our heels, a seagull alighted on the top of the "gastropub" across the street and squawked his territorial cry over the dock area), riding on the bus through the nostalgic narrow streets of Falmouth, with their tall hedges and storm-windowed mid-century homes, and finally at the parking lot. We were just loaded into the van when rain began spattering us--just made it. It never rained very hard and we had an uneventful, if mostly dark, ride back up through the Bourne and then along the freeways.
We had a light supper at Friendly's, me just the chicken soup with oyster crackers, and James the soup and cheese sandwich like I had last evening. This Friendly's is very popular with parents, and this night, like last night, the place was full of small children. It was after seven and I'm always amazed at how late children stay up these days. At five or six I was in bed by seven, except on Sunday when I could stay up until 7:30 and watch Lassie.
Yet another strange episode in this year's Sleepy Hollow...well, reboot in a way, since the whole "Katrina trapped" plot is gone. In fact, Ichabod Crane seems to have forgotten her completely except for mention in the first episode, and has a "squeeze" in the past (Betsy Ross, of all people) and one in the present.
» Wednesday, October 21, 2015Can't Leaf It Alone
Today was kind of an odd day.
We were up at eight, breakfasted, and headed north. We both wanted to go back to Hampton, New Hampshire, but for different reasons. Alas, our luck with good weather (cold or warm) was broken today, as we were peppered with rain from Norwood all the way through Peabody. I was looking for a specific landmark as we went up I-95/Route 128 and was surprised when I saw it. When we drove here in the 60s/70s, there was some type of office building with a decorative wall that angled diagonally out from the main wall, and it was covered with yellowish metallic reflective material. I always waited to see if I could catch the reflection of Dad's car in the mirrored surface. Back then it was the only building in that location and set high on the hill, so it looked huge. Well, I did spot it today, but it's so surrounded by even larger buildings now that I nearly missed it. It looks so tiny!
When I-95 splits from old Route 128, it gets a great deal more boring, running between grassy fields and groves of trees but nothing else, past the Topsfield fair grounds, and north to New Hampshire. Very soon it was time for us to exit at Seabrook and run up Route 1 to Sanborn Candies. We went here five years ago and fell in love with the dark-chocolate covered lime creams. This is a lovely candy store with friendly attendants, and they have wonderful stuff. Right now they have fall, Hallowe'en, and Thanksgiving items among the regular candies: chocolate with candy corn trimmings, ghosts and witches, solid chocolate turkeys in dark, milk, and white, and the most wonderful thing, a small cornucopia molded from chocolate (dark or milk) and filled with chocolate "leaves" wrapped in autumn leaf colors. Oh, goodness, but how could one eat it? There was a huge one, too, the size of a big microwave oven, filled with the leaves and other fall-themed candies. Of course they carry maple sugar cakes in multiple shapes like moose and maple leaves, and little souvenir bottles of syrup.
So we bought ourselves a treat for Thanksgiving and Christmas: a quarter pound of the lime creams, another quarter pound of orange creams, then a third quarter of coffee creams for me, and finally mixed lemon creams and peppermint creams for the final quarter of a pound for James. James also got some sugar-free candies.
We completely missed James' destination, The History Store, by looking for it on the wrong side of the road, another place we went five years ago. This is a store that features history books, military figures, and plastic and metal models. They are in a different building now, on the main street of Hampton, in a place that I assume is a lot cheaper in rent than the original place (just a regular little storefront than a fancy new building with clerestory windows). I found a book about the Victorians that I hadn't seen before. Like last time, it was at half price, too! James got an F104 and an X-15, little metal models, and bought the book for me as an anniversary gift.
We had been so delayed by the rain that it was now lunch time, so we drove over the state line via the Piscataqua Bridge and had lunch at the Weathervane in Kittery. James had some sirloin tips and the thinnest, sweetest onion rings ever. My eyes were bigger than my stomach: I ordered steamers and got a small pail full of them. I ate them all, but was reminded why we shared them when we bought them at home: boy, do they fill you up, plump little steamer clams rinsed in salt water and then dipped in clarified butter. Yum! (I'm hoping I don't have problems similar to the lobster roll event, but then I eat Sprouts chowder all the time and that's stuffed with clams.)
I figured James would like to go across the street to the Kittery Trading Post, a huge sporting goods/camping store about the size of a Bass Pro Shop, like last time, but he said he wasn't looking for anything this time round and was feeling a little tired. I thought we could check out a local bookstore, so we headed back over the bridge and found one in downtown Portsmouth, but it didn't have handicapped access. So instead we decided to drop in at Strawbery Banke, remembering the nice gift shop/bookstore they had. Portsmouth is still fixing downtown--we ran into road construction five years ago as well!--and we wound through the narrow streets only to find out they had replaced the gift shop/bookstore in the visitor center with a restaurant! The gifts/books are now in one of the old houses on the Strawbery Banke site, and the attendant gave us a sticker so we could go down to it through the village rather than having to drive around to the opposite side. Alas, this was even less handicapped accessible than the bookstore downtown, so I went in alone to check it out. It was very cute and cozy--all the food gifts in a little ell, and cups, china, books, scarves, jewelry, candy, etc. tucked pell-mell in a narrow little shop floor, with Celtic music playing, but I was able to look through the books and know there wasn't anything of interest.
The one glorious thing about this short visit was the maple trees. The ride north was dotted with lovely spots of fall color from Norwood all the way up to Kittery, but the tree next to the Goodwin House in Strawbery Banke, one tree inside the grounds, and two just down the street were absolutely spectacular. I kept shooting picture of them from different angles and then thinking "this will never look as beautiful on film as it does to my eyes." The Goodwin maple was indescribable, with some leaves perfectly showcasing the full color turn of the leaves from green to yellow to orange to red. It is a fantasy autumn tree come to life.
We headed back to the hotel just as the traffic was getting heavy. As a sop to our disappointing local bookstore attempts, we stopped at the Burlington, MA, Barnes & Noble. Okay, why do everyone else's Barnes & Nobles look better than the ones in Atlanta? The Burlington store is twice as large as the largest Atlanta store, which I believe is Akers Mill. Even the Chattanooga store has more books! Anyway, I found a small New England calendar for the spare bedroom, and bought a copy of "Vermont Magazine," and we both saw books we wanted to buy when we got home and got coupons; I spied a new volume about Sherlock Holmes and a really yummy looking book titled The Santa Claus Man!
Naturally it was still full rush-hour when we got back on the road. We finally took a detour suggested by Waze on my phone and got around the mess on I-95 by cutting through to Route 1 via surface streets. For dinner we stopped at Friendly's. After the steamers, our "small supper" was very generous: I had some wonderful chicken noodle soup with a grilled cheese sandwich and James had a big cheeseburger. We even managed to squeeze some ice cream in, since why would you go to Friendly's, known for their ice cream, without having any? :-) Their coffee ice cream is outstanding!
» Tuesday, October 20, 2015Going Back in Time
We had a great time at Old Sturbridge Village today!
I never came here as a child and this morning I was wondering if I was going to be disappointed; sometimes when you want to go someplace so badly as a kid it isn't the same as an adult.
But this was good. A very good day!
We got up early, but left late for certain health reasons (let's say that lobster roll caught up with me, although I don't regret eating it!). On the Mass Pike we were slowed down by a really nasty looking accident involving two cars and a dump truck (it didn't look like anyone got hurt), but it wasn't that long a delay. So we got there about an hour after they opened, but this was actually fine. We got through everything without rushing, stopping to talk to all the costumed people, and were done by four.
Old Sturbridge Village began as a collection of primitive tools and other pieces by a man named Albert Wells, who did not want the old items to be forgotten. First he started a regular museum, then came up with the idea to have a historical village devoted to New England life after the Revolutionary War, but in the calm ante-bellum 1830s before the Civil War. Most of the land belonged to the abandoned Wight Farm. The Village started in 1946 with six buildings and now has sixty, mostly authentic structures moved there, but some constructed for the site using traditional methods. Like Williamsburg and Plimouth Plantation, costumed artisans and historians show you how people lived.
We began, of course, at the visitor center and worked our way widdershins around the village, starting with "the small house," which is not an authentic aged building, but was built by the Sturbridge people to represent the average small home of the time (400 square feet). It had one bedroom as well as a fold-up bed that was the precursor of the Murphy bed. From there we went on to the Quaker meetinghouse and the Center Meetinghouse (Baptist, perhaps? Or Congregational?), past the reproduction graveyard, and the town "pound," here made of stone, which wasn't for dogs in those days, but strayed cattle, sheep, and other livestock.
At the shoe shop we spoke to the cobbler, who was constructing the sole, specifically the heel, of a traditionally-made shoe, made as a "straight" (there were no right and left shoes back then; they were made straight and molded themselves to your right or left foot as you wore them), pegging the heel with an awl, wax, and tiny pegs. He told us women would sew the leather uppers and then those would come to the shoemaker for attachment to the sole. Only men did this portion of cobbling. Then we peeked into the school, which was so dark we didn't see the "school keeper" swathed in his dark cloak and dour expression until we were inside looking at the battered desks (authentic) and lectern (ditto). We were lectured by the "school keeper"--not a school "teacher," because he did not teach the children anything: he just saw that they memorized what was in their books! He made $23/month, a female "school keeper" only $12. (The docents don't pretend to be of that time, like at Plimouth Plantation, but try to keep you in mind that it's 1830 with the way they talk.)
We next chatted with the potter, who also works in an authentic pottery shop that was moved from Connecticut. They make and fire and glaze their own redware pottery in an old beehive kiln on the opposite side of the road, then sell it in the gift shop. While we were there the potter's "drunken brother-in-law" and the schoolmaster visited him, and they did sort of pretend to be of that time.
Next we walked on to the Freeman Farm and Barn. This was a prosperous family of the time, who were able to expand their house through hard work and good investment in labor. We talked to two of the farm workers about the cattle--the cows lowing in the pasture in the rear and two oxen grazing in another field--which were Red Devon/milking shorthorn crosses. I was intrigued by their tall brimmed rye-stem braided hats, under which one fellow kept a bandanna to wipe his face! Chickens wandered the yard scratching and catching bugs as in the old days. In the house, they were cooking up breakfast foods (stewed apples, pancake batter, leftover meat) and the flies were everywhere. But of course in those days they didn't know flies were bad.
On then to the Bixby home; this family was always working, even at night, but when all their neighbors lost everything in a recession, they thrived. They were not wealthy, but had a nice big house and even "indoor plumbing"--a pump inside the house!
At the blacksmith shop, I watched with delight as the blacksmith, who is still in training, practiced making simple utilitarian hooks for homes with a decorative twist to them. He made a full hook as James and I watched, and presented me with an earlier one that had come out perfectly. It was amazing what small detail work he could do simply by tapping skilfully with that big hammer. Anyway, he said that the blacksmith, like the miller, would have done most of his business in trade. He'd make some tools for the Freeman family, for instance, and get milk and cheese back.
Next was the carding mill for use with wool (it could do in 40 minutes what one woman could do in one day), the gristmill (very familiar to us with yearly visits to Nora Mill), and the big sawmill which looked like every sawmill you've seen in a cartoon, except Bugs Bunny wasn't tied to the log heading for the saw blade. :-) The land in front of the sawmill is actually a 300-year-old earthen dam, which makes a pond and supplies the water for the millraces.
I am so glad I got to see this for my first time in the fall. I'm sure it's more lush in the summer, but it was lovely now, with beautiful patches of color around every corner. I must have several dozen photos of autumn trees and trees around vintage buildings.
We started on the "backstretch" by going over the Dummerston [Covered] Bridge, which came from Vermont after it was about to be torn down. It was once washed off its piers by Hurricane Diane (there is a flood line on the gristmill of where Diane flooded Sturbridge in 1955) and moved a hundred feet to its present site. Next was the Bullard Tavern, which has a cafeteria, so we stopped for lunch (and a potty break). James had a ham dinner and I had a chicken pot pie (which didn't have enough chicken, but the crust was great).
Then, onward: we walked down the green to see the tin shop. James and I learned something new: the gentleman running the tin shop is not a "tinsmith." He is a "tinner." A smith, he says, by definition, is someone who changes the thickness of metal. The tinner just takes different gauges of tin and makes them into containers, tools, etc. His most expensive item in the shop: a tin kitchen with a rotating spit for use before the fire to roast food. It cost $3 back then, which was three weeks' wages for the average man!
The parsonage, I learned, was only a parsonage while a Protestant minister lived there. It ceased being one once the minister left and was only a regular house. This was a big home with the parlor doubling as a room for church meetings. Upstairs was a guest room for maiden ladies traveling without escort who had no proper place to stay; the minister would take her in if she had a letter of recommendation from her own minister! Next was a small law office--and law offices seemingly never change: a desk, a diploma, and a big bookcase of law books!
We stayed and chatted with the lady attendant at the Knight General Store; Knight was another merchant who prospered and was able to expand the business by building ells upon the original structure. In the back were "supplies" in casks and barrels, while out front were shelves and containers of anything you could think of, from china and books and fabric to foods and spices and dyestuffs, dancing slippers, supplies of rum, brooms, bellows and glass bottles. James asked what copperas was and me "logwood" (the store came from Dummerston, Vermont, like the bridge, with the drawers of spices and dyes already labeled) and these were both used in dying wool.
We checked out a barn, had to skip a house undergoing a roof job, and stopped at another home, the Fitch, which illustrates average family life in 1839 and had authentic outbuildings behind it, including a corn crib (barn) from Rhode Island, and finally the "pink" (well, a faded red that looks pink) Thompson Bank. Inside Scrooge and Cratchit would have found it familiar, with a clerk's desk and the safe. In the back was an office where the bank manager arranged loans, and out front was the cashier's desk where the run-of-the-mill got their money. An exhibit of American, British, Spanish and French coins were included.
Next was the Towne House, a wealthy farmer's residence. This was huge compared with the other homes, a summer kitchen in the basement also used for "messy" jobs like butchering an animal, a dairy, and multiple bedrooms, including one big long room with a bed in the corner which was also used by Mr. Towne as a place for the Masons to meet. The walls were painted with trees, and the Mason "all seeing eye" and stars were painted on a blue ceiling. Two big piebald oxen were pastured next to the house.
Next was the cider mill, and it smelled from a distance of wonderful apple scent (although I wondered why there was an undercurrent of manure to the smell until I discovered the two sheep penned out back; there are sheep in various pastures next to different homes all over the village). Then we had a delightful visit to the printing office, where the printer was working on a letterpress to print out some marriage banns and marriage licenses. I was surprised to learn that his printouts will need to dry two days before they can be cut. There was a bigger press in another room, and then a place to read the galley proofs and correct them before making a final product.
Next we checked out exhibits of New England glassware (blown, pressed, optics, decorative, etc.), firearms (some looking familiar after our visit to Springfield) and textiles (chiefly clothing, which included "busks," decorative sticks stuck up a girl's back to keep her from slouching!), and early lighting. The latter had an actual "Betty lamp"--I've seen drawings and photos, but not actual Betty lamps. There were candles, Argand (whale oil) lamps which were actually bright enough to read by, gas, and early electrics. We passed on seeing the beehives (James is allergic) and walked past the herb gardens, and then, sadly, we were done!
(We apparently missed the powder house, the cooper, and a demonstration of cannon. Oh, well. We saw all the interesting bits.)
Then we perused the gift shop that you had to walk through to leave ("it's a state law"). James bought a cookbook and I got the souvenir book and a fridge magnet. On the way out we bought two fudge cookies and split one on the way home. It had an peculiar, interesting taste; I think it has molasses in it. (We ate the other later, while watching television in the hotel room.)
Happily, we ran into no bad traffic homeward bound except for a small slowdown. On the return trip down Route 1, next to Gillette Stadium where the New England Patriots football team plays, we stopped at A.C. Moore crafts. I was dismayed to find that their cross-stitch supplies are down to one side of one aisle!!! They had nice Christmas/winter banners though, including one with a chickadee on a pine branch; maybe I can go back. I bought a gift for someone there.
We ate at Old Country Buffet up near the Barnes & Noble. We used to have one on Buford Highway, and we had many "Myriad lunches" there. I would go there just for the roast chicken, which was golden brown with crispy skin. Then they sold the place to someone else and the food became dreadful. Well, this place still has the chicken. Unfortunately it was very dry. Also, the price was ridiculous. They charged us $5 each for unlimited drinks!!! Just for that I had a second glass of milk, because $5 was too much to pay for just one. Drinks used to be part of the dinner price. Plus when we came in, we were supposed to pay, but no one was at the cash register. The janitor saw us, called the waitress--there was only one waitress for the whole place, and she had to call the manager, who was supposed to be watching the cash register. She was in the back showing someone a picture of her new car on her cell phone! Sheesh.
So now we are back relaxing having had a great day. Glad I finally got to see Sturbridge Village!
» Monday, October 19, 2015I Capture the Castle...But Don't Get to Keep It
We have several days already planned, but today was one of the unplanned ones. So I thought "Why not go to Gillette Castle?"
Gillette Castle has nothing to do with the guy who made the razors or the stadium where the New England Patriots play. William Gillette was a stage actor from the turn of the last century, a very celebrated actor, and a matinee idol. As one website commented, "He was the Benedict Cumberbatch of his day." He was also a playwright and an author, but his main claim to fame is that he brought Sherlock Holmes to the stage. This was after Arthur Conan Doyle, wanting to concentrate on more "serious" books, killed Holmes off in the last of his second set of short stories for the "Strand" magazine. Gillette got the rights to do a Holmes play, and, famously, he asked Doyle if he could have Holmes get married in the story. Doyle said offhandedly, "You may marry him or murder him!" He didn't care. So Holmes does marry in the play and there is no Watson. More importantly, it was Gillette, and not Doyle, who introduced the three things most associated with Sherlock Holmes: the calabash pipe, the deerstalker hat, and the Inverness cape. (Holmes does wear a deerstalker in at least one illustration, but he did not favor one. It's a hunting cap, for one!)
Gillette owned a good deal of beautiful land in southeastern Connecticut and had a good deal of money to go with it, so he built a three-story stone home, his "Castle," on the property. The house and grounds are now a state park.
So after breakfast we headed south, listening to "A Way With Words" and "Travel With Rick Steves." We were sent south on I-95, then I-295 to US6 through western Rhode Island. Good ol' "Suicide 6" doesn't seem to have been repaired since I left home, full of ruts and patches and uneven spots; thankfully we were soon on I-395 and headed in to Connecticut. We had some very nice fall color at the sides of the road, as brilliant as yesterday, but especially when we came off the freeway onto Connecticut route 82 through Norwich and westbound toward East Haddam. This was a lovely country road, with overhanging tree branches, dotted with homes, and swirls of golden leaves at every turn. This led to an even narrower country road into the park.
Except the Castle was closed for the season. Sigh... I remember when things were open until Hallowe'en. Now everything closes on bloody Columbus Day.
We were able to go into the visitor's center, and there is memorabilia there, including two deerstalker hats that Gillette used on stage. Like Walt Disney, later in his life Gillette got interested in small gauge railroad trains. The engine for one is in the center of the visitor center. So I took photos there, and of the beautiful view outside (like Biltmore House, the Castle was placed in that spot for a reason!), and the Castle through the trees.
I was disappointed, but the ride on the country road was totally worth it. People say they want to find a place where there are no fast-food restaurants? Come to this part of Connecticut (near East Haddam). We didn't even see a local restaurant, just barns and homes and groves of lovely trees.
Anyway, once on a book blog I had read about a place in Connecticut called The Book Barn that is just that, a barn. It looked like, online, one of those funky places with lots of wind chimes, funny signs, and little nooks. So I set the GPS for it. Just before we got there, we stopped at a Dunkin Donuts for lunch. James had a ham-and-cheese on multigrain bagel, and I had a chicken salad on a "French roll." The chicken salad wasn't much, but the bread was worth the price of the sandwich.
So we arrive at the Book Barn, which is on the road with the house in the rear, and it's exactly as it looks online, one of those funky places with lots of wind chimes, funny signs, and little nooks! There are little sheds of different shapes between the barn and the house with books in them. Out front is where they buy books, a yard that is full of little carts with books in them, and then you walk on paths behind with garden benches, toys for kids to play with, a pen with two goats (one who tried to get me to feed her goat feed, but I didn't have the quarter), a small waterfall surrounded by garden decorations, a pathway decorated for Hallowe'en, a little kids' playhouse, a bigger shed in the back with mystery books called "The Haunted Bookshop," another airy shed with poetry and classics, and just cunning little signs, gnomes, metal flowers, etc. Up in the barn were histories, childrens and teens, self-help, and some others.
I found a travel book written by a man who travels from each of the World War I battle sites, part history, part travelogue, and part memoir, and James got a full-color book on aircraft. I told the cashier that I was looking for Christmas books and old children's books, and she directed us to the midtown store just down the street, but I didn't see either in the store! Maybe she misunderstood. Whatever. I found some L. Neil Smith books to replace James' missing ones, and a Third Doctor "missing adventure" with Jo and the Brigadier and the Master...jolly! There are four stores total, the actual barn (the original store, which the family has run for 28 years), the midtown store, the downtown store, and store number 4, which was closer to the Dunkin Donuts.
For the rest of the afternoon we went to the USS Nautilus museum in Groton. We've been there before, but James wanted to see if there was anything new, and there was: a new exhibit on the submarine NR1, which was retired in 2008. I took a few new pictures of the place, and tried out the panorama feature on the camera on the submarine itself. We did not go on it again as James would be unable to go below.
They closed at four, despite the notation on the website to the contrary, so we headed back to the hotel. However, I was keeping an eye on the time and as we approached Warwick noticed that it was bumper-to-bumper on the I-95 Cranston and Providence/Pawtucket traffic corridor. So I suggested to James that we stop somewhere to eat. And since we were pretty close to Iggy's, we went there (I told James we could go to The Inn, but he remembered how large the portions were; we have no place for leftovers).
We sat on the porch, which is enclosed for the winter although the sparrows can get under the covers; one did while were there and cheeped and flew around until he found his way out. Outside the seagulls cawed and quarreled among themselves, taking to the air and sailing around and then landing again. The ocean was like rippled midnight blue glass under a cloudless blue sky.
James ordered a shrimp platter and I a lobster roll; these came with exquisitely crunchy-outside fluffy-inside french fries, some not-overly-sweetened cole slaw, and tasty clam chowder. The lobster roll was seriously delicious, but now that I have eaten both kinds (this one with celery and a hot one with butter at Durgin Park on our last trip), I like the buttered kind better. :-)
And while we were there the sun lowered and shimmered orange on the edge of the horizon and then was gone, leaving only a emberglow in its wake and soon even that was gone. Sunsets always remind me of my parents. Mom would be in the kitchen washing dishes while Dad was in the parlor watching television. The parlor faced north and west and he could always see the sunset. If it was starting to look spectacular he would call for my mother and they would watch the sunset together.
Some traditions should go on.
Well, traffic was still stalled downtown, so I directed James to go down West Shore Road and follow 117 so we could get on I-295 again. Unfortunately, Apponaug apparently is undergoing another "streetlift." I swear every time we are instate they are fixing the road somewhere in Apponaug. There are orange barrels everywhere and we couldn't turn where we needed and had to wind our way around it. So by the time we got to 295 the traffic downtown was gone, but we used 295 anyway. We were heading directly to the hotel, but the GPS dropped us off right near the Barnes & Noble we couldn't get into last night, so...
I now have two of my four calendars for next year: a big New England calendar for work and a smaller one for my craft room. I was trying to find a 7 1/2 inch one for the spare room, where I usually put a travel-oriented calendar, but they didn't have anything local. I can get the generic calendars anywhere. I'll get a Susan Branch for our bedroom as usual.
So we're back at the hotel. Saw the end of an episode of The Waltons, Jay Leno's Garage, and are now on Castle, which is even more ridiculous than last week's show. The producers say they are trying to get back the "first-season feeling" again. Dammit, we've already done first season. What is with Ryan and Esposito being comic relief and Castle acting stupid? And Beckett is definitely not acting as she did in first season; she's eye-rolling and indulgent. It's horrendous.
Of course anything is better than what they're replacing it with for two weeks, some dreadful-sounding series about a pair of serial killers who are sexually involved with each other and find murdering people exciting. Where do series producers get these creepy ideas?
» Sunday, October 18, 2015The Chill of History
I never do get a decent night's sleep anymore. My left leg hurts or I need to use the bathroom or I have a bad dream. But let me tell you, last night was a thousand percent better than the night before. It was so nice and cool in the room that even the inconsiderate goons checking out early didn't really bother me.
Breakfast was the same as yesterday, the weather the opposite. It was bright blue day with white clouds and chilly with a breeze with a frosty edge to it. As I might have said, we didn't bring our jackets. Instead I put a sweatshirt on with a flannel shirt for a jacket, and the little Nordic blue hat I bought from the Apple Annie show. I had my pashmina and James' wool scarf in the back of the van, and we have one pair of gloves between us.
Since it was going to be chilly, we decided to do an inside thing today. Accordingly, we headed west on the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90) out to Springfield, where the Springfield Armory is. This site is the only National Historic Site in western Massachusetts, and was where the famous Springfield rifles that supplied US soldiers from post-colonial times through the Vietnam War were made. Most of the factory, which was constructed around a traditional New England green used as a parade ground, is now a college campus, but one of the buildings has been reserved for a museum for the armory.
As you walk in the first thing you see is a tower with a stairway along the perimeter. It goes up, and up and up, I don't know how high, and hung at center at the very top is a pulley all the way down to the entryway, showing how they used to hoist crates of firearms to the top!
The museum itself begins with an enlarged black and white photograph circa 1920s (1930s?) of the workers who made the factory hum, and a long hall which leads to the main floor. The main exhibit starts with a history of firearms themselves, beginning with a long "hand cannon" that was basically a tube on a long pole, from the fifteenth century, to matchlocks to flintlocks to percussion versions, and of course from smooth barrels to rifled barrels. Following that were exhibits of colonial, pioneer, and war weapons made at the Springfield site, the Harpers Ferry armory, by other manufacturers, and also foreign weapons. There was an exhibit of machine guns, an "organ" made of stacked Springfield rifles accompanied by a Longfellow anti-war poem called "The Armory at Springfield," a history of the armory itself from water power to electrical power, an assortment of machine tools that would make the firearms, a tribute to John Garand, creator of the M1 Garand rifles used by so many of our servicemen, and the last day of an exhibit about Hollywood films that have used actual items from the museum as models for the weapons they would use in a film, like the rifle that finally brings an end to the reign of Bruce the shark in Jaws, rubber handguns for Clint Eastwood, etc.
It was a nifty little exhibit, but the most entertaining thing that happened was, as we turned on the last street toward the Armory, wet precipitation started hitting the windshield.
Not rain, snow/sleet! It was a mixture of ice crystals and hard little white pellets, and quite visible when it squalled. We laughed about it, and these little squalls continued on and off all day. As we walked into the building, a man commented about the snow to us in a rich local accent. I bet he doesn't want a repeat of last year.
I thought we'd head up to the Yankee Candle Flagship Store for a triple treat: a walk about, lunch, and more gorgeous leaves. It was only a half hour's drive and we'd already had a lovely preview: the MassPike was lined with gorgeous trees celebrating the arrival of autumn...well, most of the trees. It is very strange; there is one type of tree that is not turning. I think it's the American oak. What leaves are "turning" are turning brown. In the meantime, the maples and the other trees are celebrating with color like it's Mardi Gras. We saw an orange tree today that was nearly flourescent. There were trees with leaves as brilliant as rubies and as starry as topazes, and yellows, chartreuses, pumpkin, melon shading to saffron, red edged with orange, deep maroons and pinky reds. What white birches are left crowd around what's left of the marshes, already bare and stark white outlines. Together they all met for a glorious bouquet of color.
Walking Yankee Candle was fun. They have a new scent, New England Maple, but only had jars. I couldn't carry that home on the plane. I didn't see any of the tealights. And we went in the "Bavarian village" at one edge of the store, which looks like a German Christkindlmarkt at night and is filled with every sort of Christmas decoration, from baubles to Jim Shore to smokers and pyramids.
Lunch was good, but not as outstanding as it should have been for the price we paid. We had a turkey dinner with all the trimmings: green beans (which I gave to James), butternut squash perfectly sweetened, mashed potatoes, real cranberries, and turkey and gravy with stuffing, with an opening salvo of clam chowder. The chowder was delicious, but I must confess that West Cobb Diner makes much better dressing!
And the trees, sadly, were a bit of a bust. I remember the ones in the parking lot being absolutely spectacular last time, but they were already past peak except for a few at the edge of the road.
Still, we'd had a nice time, and we made our way home thinking we could stop at Barnes & Noble for a bit--and then we ran into a mystery jam west of Sturbridge that didn't resolve itself for seven bloody miles. By the time we got to the final service plaza James had to take over driving for me because my eyes hurt so badly. Now that "breeze with an edge" was really cold! I wrapped on the pashmina as well.
When we finally got to the bookstore, it was five minutes to closing. Sigh. Wish we'd known that before we unloaded the power chair!
Anyway, we picked up some soup at Panera and came back to eat it in the room and watch Alaska: the Last Frontier.
» Saturday, October 17, 2015From the Ridiculous to the Sublime
Well, it was a miserable night. We were too hot, and at one point James woke up railing against the heat. To add insult to injury, about three in the morning there came hellish pounding from the next room and then sounds like someone was racing plastic garbage bins up and down the hall. James woke up, then fell back to sleep, leaving me stewing. At 3:50 I put on some better clothes and stomped to the front desk to protest. Apparently someone had left and that was their luggage cart. What were they doing with it, Demolition Derby? And why doesn't this place have room darkening curtains anyway?
So we were hungry and exhausted when we got up for breakfast. Nice assortment, bagels, biscuits, toast, a pancake making machine, cereal, eggs and sausage, hard boiled eggs, two kinds of milk, oatmeal packets, juice. Nice roomy area to eat. But, damn, were we tired.
I called my cousin Debbie at breakfast, but got no answer. She and her husband have their own tool-making shop, so I expected they might be at work, even on Saturday. So we left a note on the room of the door about the air conditioner, and departed for points south. Our transportation, by the way, is a modified Dodge Caravan. I was driving it today and it basically drives like my PT, only...larger. I wish it had better suspension. The roads are a mess, especially after all that snow last winter. The streets in Rhode Island rattled our teeth sometimes.
Got to see the new I-195 interchange, which is on different levels and looks like a junior "Spaghetti Junction." Hopefully makes it easier to go eastbound than when I was taking it to work every day.
I had some foam visors with us for the sun, but they don't protect on top, so I headed down to Quonset Point. I thought James could get a baseball cap there at the air museum. But it has been closed since 2014; part of the roof collapsed in a snowstorm. The planes once in the hanger are along the shoreline, absorbing salt air. The museum committee has a building going up in a new location, but it won't be done for another two years. James was pretty unhappy. The last time we were here, the place had improved. What a letdown.
Instead we visited the tiny, new Seabee Museum just down the road. The Seabees actually began in Davisville, RI, during World War II, and of course the Quonset hut originated here as well. ("Quonset" is a Native American word meaning "barrier.") The museum is just in the beginning stages and has little things like uniforms, camp art, and other memorabilia from the second World War all the way up to the present. Inside you also find out there were several different versions of Quonset huts, not just one kind. Early ones were just a semicircular topped building, later ones had side walls. Some had overhangs in front of the doors. There were examples of all kinds outside, plus a chapel, a couple of turfed bunkers that now have trees growing out of them, a pathway with memorial stones for different divisions of the Seabees as well as ones donated for individuals, and a big flagpole with the US, Navy, and POW flags flapping in the strong breeze. James' chair rolled around the paths easily. It was quite chilly, but we reveled in it after this summer.
By now it was lunchtime, so we headed back to Cranston and had lunch at T's on Park Avenue. I of course ordered some of the chicken soup I loved previously. I think they've changed the recipe. :-( Their old soup tasted a lot like my mom's, but this has different spices in it now. It was still good; I had it with a side of bacon and snitched French fries from James' mushroom burger.
It was still bright and blue and beautifully breezy. I wanted something special for dessert and wanted to go somewhere special at the same time. So after taking a turn around the old neighborhood and stopping by Debbie and Richard's workplace to see if they were there, I had one more thing left to do: I headed for the cemetery. I thought I could find my Mom and Dad's grave, and James swore I was going the correct way, but I never could find it. But I did walk around a bit and talk to them, and Mom would understand. She always did have trouble with maps...
I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone about dessert and "beautiful places," and headed down to Point Judith lighthouse. Well, both Aunt Carrie's (famous for their clam cakes chowder) and the Point Judith location of Iggy's had closed for the season. I thought that wasn't until the end of the month. And, alas, not only does the Department of Homeland Security now have the entire lighthouse and Coast Guard station fenced off, but James and I were both suffering from that old person's disease, Gottapee. [wry grin] We were able to park in the new observation area next to the lighthouse where a restaurant had stood for years, and I took some lovely photos of the sky, the surf, the sailboat and the power boat and the cabin cruiser, and even a short film, but eventually we had to head back. We stopped at a Dunkin Donuts both to offload and onload liquid, if you get my drift. On the other hand, it was fortuitous, since they had coffee milk.
Eventually we ended up where I should have headed in the first place, at Oakland Beach, to the original Iggy's, which is now a year-round restaurant. Soon we had six hot doughboys in our possession. I took the van the rest of the way down the beach, where we parked along the sea wall and rolled down the van windows and listened to the scree of the seagulls and the hish-hish of the surf and picked out the Jamestown and Newport bridges in the distance as we ate the crunchy outside, chewy inside, sugar-sprinkled golden fried dough.
One enterprising seagull noticed us park and sauntered up on the rocks of the seawall, giving me a gimlet eye. I had to laugh, because he was so plainly cadging for a handout it was funny. Even when a jogger made him desert his post and float in the water for a few minutes, he didn't give up. He finally flapped back on the wall and made eye contact with me again. "Lady, can you spare a poor hungry seagull a bite?" Poor hungry my foot! He was fat and sleek and healthy-looking, but yes, I threw him bits of doughboy anyway. The crows got half of it, but he did get to gobble a few bits.
Reluctantly we left our new avian friend and made our way back north to Norwood. The room was blessedly cool when we got in. We dropped off the camera and then drove down the road to Texas Roadhouse for supper. It was very crowded and extremely noisy as usual, but it wasn't too long a wait. Because of the doughboys, we skipped having any starch at all, even refusing the usual rolls. Instead we had a small steak and salads and a veggie each, and just drank water. Hopefully that will even out James' blood sugar.
Stopped at Walgreen's to get James another cane; we left his at home and he badly needs it. It won't go to waste, since we are getting older and will need such tools in the future, alas, and then it was back to the hotel room, with a nicely repaired air conditioner. Sat, relaxed, and watched Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
» Friday, October 16, 2015Leaving on a Jet Plane and All That
A very long weekend edition, that is.
So it's our 25th anniversary. So we should do something special. So this explains why we left Tucker and Snowy in the capable hands of Aubrey Spivey and were headed for the airport at ten this morning. Our flight wasn't until 2, but this was our first time flying with the power chair and we wanted to get places early.
Well, it was nearly a flawless day. We used the Atlanta Park-Ride as the airport suggested and are right on the roadway. All the shuttle drivers gave us directions and one called the shuttle with the chair lift for us. They were super helpful. A+ for the park-ride.
Southwest was great, too. The baggage check guy was jolly and tagged James' chair before we even got inside. We were shunted to the left with the people with families at TSA, and only I had to remove my shoes. Our gate was in the perfect place, next to the bathroom and the water fountain. We ate at Jersey Mike's, and yipe, yes, much more expensive at the airport.
They whisked James' chair away at the foot of the jetway, folded the back forward, and it was off as cargo. We had swell seats right at the front, James at the window, of course, and after an hour we flew right over Chesapeke Bay and then a half-hour later we were flying right along the opposite side of Long Island Sound and had a spectacular view of the south coast of Rhode Island, all the way from Napatree Point to Point Judith, and then the plane turned north and there were the Jamestown and Newport Bridges and, I think, both the Mount Hope Bridge and possibly the Braga Bridge. We came in west over Massachusetts Bay, with a great view of the North Shore, and landed at Logan Airport.
Of course, then we had to wait for the chair, but soon we were on our way via sliding walkway and elevators to baggage claim, and were on a blissfully cool Massport bus going to the Rental Car center. This was a slight bobble. We were supposed to wait at the airport and call Sixt Rental, but all the prompts I got from Sixt told me to go to the Rental Car center. But the driver with the shuttle was game and he and another gentleman lifted that heavy power chair and put it in the back of the van.
The actual Sixt Rental place is in Chelsea, and by the time we got done with the paperwork Boston was in the full throes of rush hour. So we headed for a Texas Roadhouse, got rather tangled up in the streets in Everett, and finally made it to the restaurant only to find it standing room only. However, there was a lifesaving Panera Bread across the shopping center parking lot. Never was a chicken noodle soup and grilled cheese sandwich so gratefully received.
By the time we left (about 8:30), rush hour was over, and I was flabbergasted that the roads were so clear! This ain't Atlanta rush hour. On the other hand, I had forgotten how totally berserk Boston drivers are: weaving in and out of traffic, laying on the horn...this is why you pahk the cah and take the T. The shortest and quickest way to our hotel was the expressway through downtown Boston! So we crossed the striking Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge, which was lighted in blue, and drive though the tunnels of the Big Dig.
The only fly in the ointment is the hotel. We are staying at a new Holiday Inn Express and the handicapped accessable room is rather austere, but has a comfy bed and pillows, and a jacuzzi tub in the room--and the freaking air conditioner doesn't work properly. It's 77 degrees in the room and the cool air coming out of the A/C isn't coming out all that cool or forcefully. Which explains why James is sitting right now in shorts and nothing else in front of it and I have our little fan pointing right at me in a skimpy tank. The hotel clerk says the computer says the A/C is working fine, and is plying us with drinks and ice and the promise of a fridge and the technician in tomorrow morning.
And now I'm going to bed because I have a headache and want a shower.
» Sunday, October 11, 2015Green Apples, Brown Mud, and Bright Blue Skies
When the alarm went off, it was still dark. However, some things are worth getting up in the dark for. :-)
Well, unless you're a pet. Tucker gave me a look of disbelief, and Snowy a dirty look when I turned the lights on that early. I left "the nest channel" (HGTV) on for Snowy, took Tucker for a walk, and then we loaded up the power chair, stopped at Burger King for breakfast, and were off to Ellijay for the Apple Festival. (I wasn't happy with breakfast; I asked for maple oatmeal and got something filled with dried fruit. I hate dried fruit; it's too sweet. "Sugary" is not my thing.) It was cloudy when we started out, with a promise of clearing up, but as we drove further north, listening to an episode of "Travel With Rick Steves" with Jane and Michael Stern talking about roadfood, it became cloudier and misty, so that the mountains were nearly obscured.
My heart sank when we arrived. Apparently it rained all day yesterday in Ellijay and the Lion's Club field was sodden. (Afterwards one of the parking attendants told me it rained so hard that some of the cars parked out on the grass got stuck in the mud and they had to get a tractor to pull them out. Then the tractor got stuck!) The handicapped field was a sea of mud, so they had us drive around and put us on firmer, grassier ground.
We mostly got around okay, but James got stuck three times because in some places it was just plain mud—once getting over the wooden bridge (which is where we thought he wouldn't get stuck), once going over straw (which had mud underneath), and once going over gravel (ditto). The wheels on the chair got to be a mess (we had to clean them later with a screwdriver to knock the grass and mud out), but we finally made it over the whole field. We got James a new leather wallet, a Christmas gift for David, a quart of sweet ginger pickles (we only got a pint last year and regretted it), five squares of fudge, some homemade coffee and chocolate caramels, homemade dog cookies, and some pralines that seduced James. James had Cajun food for lunch and I had a Philly cheesesteak without the cheese (but with lots of onions).
Instead of loading the chair back on the grass, we talked to the parking attendants and they agreed it would be better if we loaded on the road, so they put us where we wouldn't block traffic. Actually, no one was leaving yet, and the people who were now arriving in droves were parking elsewhere, so we could take our time. We drove out through the car show, which is becoming a regular feature at the Festival. Many old Corvettes, Mustangs, a 1930s Cadillac and then a 1960s one, and old roadsters that had been "chopped and channeled." I wish they'd leave them as is. I love old cars!
We had passed a Walmart on the way up, so I suggested we stop on the way back down to see if they had more of that brand of trousers we found last night. Well, we hit the jackpot! Last night we found mocha-colored ones, and today we found black, greyish-brown, and blue jean color. Cool.
Of course we stopped at the Panorama Farm stand for our apples and some sugar-free taffy for James. There were piles of big orangy pumpkins outside and one obviously doting mama and grandmama perched the cutest little girl on a big crate of pumpkins for a photograph. The clouds? They had turned white and fluffy and had parted; the sky behind them was a brilliant electric blue. We ate one of the apples on the way home: nice puckery-sour Granny Smith goodness, unlike those shiny waxed things that pass for Granny Smiths in the grocery store.
On the way home we stopped at Barnes & Noble to return the book I'd accidentally purchased a second itme—I hate when they republish with new covers!—but I couldn't find the Thoreau mystery there, or the fantasy novel I'd toyed with buying. Really, the Town Center store has fewer books than it used to. Annoying. However, James did find a new book for himself; in fact, he found two, but just bought the one he wanted more, the new John Scalzi novel.
By this time James was tired from the hour-plus drive up and then back again, so we just headed home. Spent the afternoon watching North Woods Law before switching over to America's Funniest Home Videos for a laugh, and then Alaska the Last Frontier. Had chicken egg rolls for supper.
» Saturday, October 10, 2015Another Happy Birthday Dinner
Sunday is usually our slothful sleeping day, but since we had to be up at seven tomorrow, we slept in today. We went to bed with thunder and rain and woke up to clouds at 10:30, but no real rain except for a few strain drops. Tucker had his walk, and then we had to hustle to James' bank. He had a check to deposit and a couple of other things to take care of. On the way there we admired the few trees turning color. It always seems as if fall will never come and then, whap, all of a sudden signs of it are everywhere.
James' bank is funny. There are no tellers. There are a couple of people in the offices to talk to people about loans or starting an account, but the tellers are actually behind a wall and you send them your money, etc. through a pneumatic tube like at the drive-in window. It's very strange to speak to the teller through a television screen.
We hadn't had breakfast, but it was way after eleven, so lunch was in order instead. We decided to try Giovanni's. Unfortunately their lunch menu is only during the week, so we decided to share a pizza: ground beef, olives, mushrooms, and fresh tomatoes. It was excellent! They had the new Spiderman movie on at the front of the restaurant, the one with Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben. I see they've gone all emo with Peter Parker. And Mary Jane is a blond?
We came home for a little while until it was time to leave for Jessie's birthday dinner. Yes, we were at Longhorn again. Everyone likes Longhorn. :-) Not much to say except we had a good time (except for Aubrey, who had to go back to work because they mislabeled her schedule), and I was able to pass on a very nice tripod I had to Neil. It was really too much tripod for me, a professional item that I had gotten from Amazon Vine. Now that we can give Vine items away, I gave the tripod to Neil, who's a filmmaker and will put it to good use.
After supper we went to Walmart. We get calls sometimes, from the Kidney Foundation, etc., asking us if we want to donate clothes. They don't know us very well. Clothes don't leave this house until they are "unadoptable." Seriously, I would be embarrassed to donate any clothing we have left over to charity; it would be very patronizing. We use our stuff until it needs patching and beyond. I patched and replaced patches on the "Amanda" jeans I bought until I found more because they're the only pants I've seen that come in "petite" and I loathe hemming pants. Sweaters unravel here and shirts get stained, and once they get to that state, they're stashed for yard work, and the next stop after that isn't the Twilight Zone, it's the wastebasket. So when we end up at Walmart looking for men's trousers it's because James needs them. :-) We found a perfect pair, but it only came in one color. The other pair, a different brand, didn't fit at the same size.
Came home too late really to watch Doctor Who. We'll probably get to it tomorrow.
» Friday, October 09, 2015For a Friend and Other Errands
I had a nice long sleep to start off my compressed day, curled up happily in dreamland until nine o'clock. Then I had things to do: Tucker had his walk and I reloaded the dishwasher. That "critter" is voracious. Then I spent about an hour copying off Doctor Simon Locke to send to Liz. Once I was finished with that, I could start the backup on my computer.
I had a check to deposit in the bank, so I did that first, and then went to the post office. This is the tiny post office in the shopping center where the Smyrna Kroger formerly was located, and the man who works there looks like Santa Claus, white beard and all. As always, he asked, "Do you need stamps?" and I immediately asked if they had the 50th anniversary stamps for A Charlie Brown Christmas. Yes, they did, so our Christmas cards will have a special 60s touch.
Next I went to Publix for twofers, and pretty much stuck to my list. A lovely man with a Caribbean accent helped me out to my car. And, now, finally because it was almost three, I stopped by Sprouts, picked up beef and pork bits and chicken legs, and brought home clam chowder for lunch.
Had groceries to put away downstairs, a bed to make, and other tidying things. Now that I am done recording Locke (at least until we get a better antenna or WANN gets a stronger transmitter!), I can finally put everything away. The original videotapes go under the television in the cabinet, just in case. The antenna can go back in place; to properly get RetroTV and the other WANN channels it has to be in the middle of the bedroom doorway, with the cord hanging down. The stepladder, for moving the antenna, can go back in the closet. The labels and the markers can be put away. Nice to have a spare room again rather than a recording studio.
It was five o'clock when the futon sent out a siren song and James wasn't due until 5:30. Nice futon. Just like a cradle.
We had supper at Tin Drum and then stopped by Petco to get a couple of things each for Snowy and Tucker. We had a 20 percent off coupon for Barnes & Noble, so we went cross the street to see if anything was out. James didn't see anything, but I picked up what I thought was Laurien Berenson's new book. (It wasn't; they are republishing them with different covers, so I'll have to return it. It's annoying because if I'd realized it, I would have bought the Thoreau mystery instead.)
» Sunday, October 04, 2015Let's Just Kick Back...
And that we did. We slept in, sadly had to go to Kroger again because we had forgotten something on Friday night, filled up the truck, and went to Publix to hit a couple of twofers. Came back to chill out—read fall magazines, played fetch with the dog, worked on my Dan story a little, had Submarine X-1 on the Works channel (stars James Caan, but I know it because it features Nick Tate from Space: 1999 in a very small role). BTW, James said this was based on a true story. The real submarines went after the German ship Terpitz. Had bagel bites and a cucumber salad for dinner. And then, yes, the season premiere of Alaska: the Last Frontier.
» Saturday, October 03, 2015The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Dripping
If there's a negative side to autumn, it's these rainstorms that come in as the weather is starting to change. I don't mind cloudy, but rain makes everyone crazy around here—if Atlantans lived in Oregon, traffic would come to a complete stop—and the barometric pressure gives me constant headaches. I drove home on Friday in a constant drizzle, but it came to an end by the time I got home, which made Tucker extremely happy. It also held out long enough for us to sit outside at the West Cobb Diner to eat our dinner. We haven't eaten outside in six months. Later we went over to the West Cobb Barnes & Noble to check out the clearance table and the magazines.
This morning we were up at nine to drive out to Betsy's Hallmark for the October ornament premiere. James was there for the P-38 Lightning; he actually bought two, one to decal as he believes it's 144 scale and he has decals to fit it. He also bought the Smaug ornament. I got the country Santa to go with the woodland tree and two little skating birds.
From there we went to Trader Joe's. We got more chicken sausage, edamame crackers, oyster crackers, some nuts and chocolate for desserts, and James stocked up on pumpkin bars. They have these fruit bars he loves (apple, strawberry, and blueberry; they also make fig but he doesn't buy those), but only in October do they have pumpkin bars (in November they will swap out for cranberry bars). He usually wakes up with really low blood sugar and these are a healthier solution than chocolate or something else sugary. Trader Joe's was literally filled with pumpkin everything, candy, cookies, desserts, chips, soups, premade dinners, cereal, baked goods, mixes...we even bought an "autumn harvest" spaghetti sauce that has butternut squash and pumpkin in it. We thought it would be good with the lobster ravioli.
For lunch we went to Williamson Barbecue. The pork riblets appetizer is so big I just got it as a meal and still brought half home. James got the big sampler platter and took the ribs and the potato skins and a chicken tender home for another supper. I'm going to have to start bringing my own sauce, though; theirs is very vinegary. I'm surprised it's not coming up on me more this evening.
We were home only for about an hour before getting dressed and heading out in...yes, the rain, again, to the Church of Our Saviour in Virginia Highlands, where John Campbell and Oreta Hinamon were solemnizing their civil ceremony. Oreta belongs to several of the groups at Our Saviour, including the altar guild, so the priests all know her, and the sermon even quoted from The Princess Bride. They had a High Mass with the usual beautiful singing. (Our Saviour is also very fond of incense. After about fifteen minutes James had to retreat to the back of the church to be able to breathe. I kept taking photos and breathing through my nose.)
It was a lovely ceremony. Father said anyone who was baptized could take Communion, so after wrestling with this a little, I did. It made me feel better. I wish James had come forward and at least had a blessing (if you crossed your hands on your chest Father would give you a blessing rather than Communion). He said he didn't feel comfortable, but after the last few months I can't think of anyone who needs one more.
There was a "collation" downstairs in the Undercroft after the service and here we got to sit down and talk to everyone: some folks had come in steampunk costumes (John was in a lovely 19th century suit, Oreta wore a kimono), mostly everyone else was casual, or, like us, casual with a fillip (James wore his kilt and a button-down shirt, but no tie or jacket, and I wore my grey pants, but with my blue work blouse). It was raining so annoyingly, Charles showed up in a trenchcoat. Naaman came in his Army Dress Blues, looking very spiffy! Took photos, ate cheese and crackers and little sandwiches in quarters and meatballs and baklava, and talked, talked, talked until it was way after six and time to head home. It was raining when we left, done when we got home, again to Tucker's great relief, although I practically had to chivvy him up the street, as something in the other direction was distracting him.
Finally I dubbed off one more episode of Doctor Simon Locke to finish a disc. I'm trying to put them in some type of chronological order, as they showed in syndication in a very erratic manner, with early episodes scattered in with later ones. I'd like to get this done so I can send a copy to Liz, who doesn't get RetroTV. One down, four to go...