Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Cards, concerts and cold, or, normal in the Midwest

Cards yesterday, as I certainly mentioned. Only three of us; Peter took the opportunity to accompany his wife's business trip to Chicago. Today was colder in Chicago than at the South Pole. Peter's remarks next week surely will be reportable.

Setting up. That's my place, in front of the card holder Greg made for me. I don't shuffle or deal, either. My fine motor skills just drifted away.

This weather has made the usual even more apparent to me. I was very concerned about navigating this winter's weather. But a few weeks in, I find common sense and common concern master most situations.

Greg got me over the snowplow's ridge of snow at the curb and then he went out and walked in Nancy from the parking lot. I kept an appointment today, and a friend I met in the lobby walked me to my car. 

School was cancelled for today and tomorrow. Laura took advantage to continue her denim quilt. I found her laying out the colors she assembled from the jeans she cut up.

It won't even be 7x9, she sadly remarked when I looked in. We made hundreds of baby quilt tops for my sister to quilt by assembling 6" blocks in 7 blocks wide, 9 rows long.

I surrendered two pair of jeans to the cause. Size 8. If I ever regain the fifteen pounds to get back in size 8, I'll treat myself to a new pair, or two.

She cut twenty odd more blocks and thinks it will be the perfect size. She had the whole garment this time, not just legs. I'll have to see if pockets show up.

This is something I would have been doing as a teenager. No phone, and she's putting her time to good use. Just saying.

Tonight Laura is going to a "Panic! at the Disco" concert with her old high school friend, Lexi. The one who has remained non-judgmental through the "troubles".

On the way to Lexi's house I ran through some basic Arctic survival, in case of trouble. First, I sent her back for hat, scarf, gloves, hoodie to, at minimum, put in her back pack. 

If your car breaks down, get it off the road and get back in. If there is not a lighted, heated building within a hundred feet, get back in. Call for help and wait.

(Lexi's driveway). Make sure Lexi has a blanket in her car. Take the fleece blanket from the back of my car.

(My side window the entire trip). It's OK, Gramma. Lexi's mom is driving.

This week's flowers still look so nice.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019


I guess we all know the big one is coming. The Polar Vortex. The cold.  It began here last night with a lot of wind. I lay in bed  realizing there probably is nowhere in anyone's mobile home to put a bed that is not on an outside wall.

So, I slept fitfully, listening to the wind and the driven rain pick at the siding and blow loose stuff around. Not more than small branches and dirt, but stuff definitely was on the move.

My heating system has come up for discussion in the past. It is a heat exchanger, used for heat in winter and cool in summer. 

My sister was here the other day, and while the "furnace" was running, she put her hand down over the nearby grill and said "That really is cool air!" Take that, universe. My sister stuck her hand in my heat, and it is cold.

I digress. I was sleeping fitfully, hearing the wind pick at my siding, when suddenly the heat exchanger made a grinding, banging noise. It would not stop. I lay in bed, rueing it was one in the morning, Sunday morning, and soon I would be out of heat and hard pressed to get maintenance here on Sunday.

But it quit, and I fell asleep for an hour, to be waked again by the horrible noise. I knew I could change the furnace over to "emergency" and burn dollar bills for heat, and I got up to do so. 

In the middle of the kitchen, I encountered Toby the Cat, on full alert, in the event the horrible banging, grinding noise came at him through the back door. He apparently intended to size it up, face to face, before he selected flight or fight.

I stopped to pat his brave head, and in the midst of the next rush of grinding and banging, I realized it was the outside storm door, left unlatched and now swinging wildly in the wind. Pulling it tight was not easy; it was a couple of tugs to get the latch secured.

The next evening I asked Laura if the noise had waked her. Yes it had, and what was it. "The storm door someone left unlatched last night."

"Yeah, I thought I didn't hear it click."


Stay warm. Bring in the pets. Feed the birds.

Monday, January 28, 2019


Cold as we’ve never known, the weather service says. Two thirds of the population will be affected. I think of my lovely niece in Georgia, who moved away from Ohio thirty years ago, to avoid winter. The high Wednesday will be zero. Thursday, no better. Come the weekend and next week, fifties. That pesky Global Warming!

I just chuckled, remembering this past weekend and telling Laura we would stop on the way home and top up our half empty tank, because the weather would be turning cold. That depression era precaution I learned from my parents. It’s still taught, I’m sure, but under a different brand than “better safe than sorry.”

The loom has been “topped up” with a new warp, and the next batch of towels is “cayenne”.  The last thread on the shelf is “pumpkin”, then I will begin again.  The last warp of 120 turns yielded 82 towels, so I went for the max this time, 150 turns. I think I’ll get 120 towels, minimum. Perhaps 125. I think that should quench my Tibetan flag pole odyssey.  Especially since I know what I will do next, come spring.

Will I be weaving tonight, Laura wanted to know, and I said to go ahead with whatever she wants to do in there. I went to look, the incessant clicking had me curious. She has reduced her collection of jeans to shorts (short shorts, I’m sure), and now is reducing the scraps to six inch squares and then a quilt. “Aren’t you lucky to have a quilter in the family?”, I asked, and she grinned, broadly.

I took to heart my weekend warning of the potential of apps to abuse. I read even more than the cursory bit I began with.  There is nothing innocuous to be found. 

When Emily and Hamilton arrived seven years ago, they were as far into porn as they could be without a credit card. They were 13 and 16, leading completely unsupervised lives. Any self-respecting parent would have been on top of that like, well, a parent. Jan and I rolled out the parental controls, and even when he left here at 18, Ham’s computer shut down at nine in the evening.

What I’m heading toward, is, if any current parents are reading this, please know there is nothing innocuous about SnapChat or WhatsApp or any other thing on your child’s smart phone. I used to be in control, when the phone lived in my room from six in the evening to six in the morning. But this past year took the stuffing out of me in more ways than one.

I spent the last six months in a hospital or skilled nursing facility, and gave Laura total access to her phone, to keep in touch. And as I said, she’s a good person, but currently swept up by bad decisions. I told her tonight of my flip phone decision which will happen this weekend. She asked at once if I still would permit her mother to buy the smart phone. My instant decision was No.

Cards tomorrow! Then I expect to be housebound until the snow begins melting, come this weekend.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Water soup

By Friday night, enough was enough.  Poor Laura and her bad decisions in this detachment portion of teen age life. I’ve already encountered several detachments, and kicked them to the curb. The super blunt, for instance. 

I wonder if I even mentioned all the phone apps that permit teenagers to talk to anybody about anything, and there is no record. All while being under the age of consent and using a phone they aren’t paying for! And now Zuckerberg is buying the apps. I don’t know how parents keep up with it. I took the phone.

Anyway, come Friday night and three straight nights of water soup, I’d had it. For anyone who has heard of our family Grandpa Soup, no, it’s not. Nor is it Stone Soup, which winds up as loaded and good as Grandpa Soup.

No, Water Soup, with leftovers, is made from half a chicken breast, one carrot, one stalk of celery, a few thin noodles, and water. “Did we run out of food this week?” I asked the cook. 

I added my own list of ingredients to today’s shopping list. Mine included artichoke hearts, in a can, half and half, cheese ravioli (from the refrigerator section, not a box), and a couple of cheeses. Oh, yes, red pepper flakes and basil. And other stuff. Peas. I remember peas.

It was for a new recipe I’d printed to use when I cook again. Laura has a portfolio of recipes I’ve given her over the years, most made once and filed. She is a college cook, mac and cheese in a bowl. Now it must include meat and a veg, to pass grandma’s inspection. But this week we have degenerated to Water Soup. So I presented the list of ingredients for Cheese Ravioli with Artichoke Sauce.

After lunch I made a new loaf of Boston Brown Bread, cleaned the kitchen and retired to the loom. At the usual time, and with only three bouts of new warp left to tie on, I heard “Supper’s ready” at the usual time.

Supper still was presented in a bowl, and it was good. I glanced at Laura’s face, and we both agreed the red pepper flakes will be halved, come future. “Did it take long?” I asked.  She may have begun quite early, for all I knew, to put supper on the table at the same time. “The usual,” she replied.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Out and about on Wednesday

I went to breakfast today with Lynn. I met her two or three years ago, in the therapists' office, in the waiting room. Where did you grow up? North Hill! So did I! Etcetcetc, down to My maiden name was Lytle, and Did you know Melvin Lytle? My brother!

Anyone who still has a fifth grade love letter from my brother could only become a friend.

We had the usual, oatmeal and English muffins, and discussed all developments since December. I brought her up to date on the consensus of sending Laura to complete her last year of high school from her mother's home. Laura wants to go, Shelly wants her back and so it's best.

My custody was ordered by the court, seven years ago, and only they can unorder. In her inimitable way, Shelly does not understand this, and is determined to find a way that does not involve an attorney. 

We (my attorney and I) gave her a week, then moved on. Courts are notoriously slow; no need to wait for Shelly to decipher there is no magic. So, we filed, and soon enough the parents will be served and the minuet will begin.

I went to the post office on the way home. It is going on fifty degrees today, and raining, so here are some pictures of weather in action and people in action.

Not the least of the snow piles. It has to go somewhere. In some places on the roads the crews could not pile it high enough to entirely clear the road. Driving was a bit tricky.

Water running, running across the road. This is a mild view; there was some serious driving down Riverview this morning, avoiding deep water in my lane. It will be quite the hazard for afternoon drivers.

A sign of the times. We are in the National park, of course, but there are more than a few metropolitan parks adjoining or encompassed by the national park. Deep Lock Quarry is one. It was one of the first parks I found here, fifty years ago. way before the National park owned us.

It is an old slate quarry, and was so important that the railroad serviced it. It is deeper than I can reliably quote you, but possible to get down and back up. Lovely trails throughout. Like all the metro parks around, they have a sign announcing they are open, as opposed to the National park across the road. What a mess that fool president is leaving to be cleaned up.

In the event anyone is interested, this is a picture of the only one bedroom unit in my trailer complex. It is rented. The next one will be set up the road, directly behind Cathy's current unit. It will be mine. Out my back door and in her front door, just like now.

This unit is cute as a button! The manager tells me when the plans are in hand, I can select the unit layout myself, and can have a ramp and a walk in shower. It sure doesn't get better than that. 

Monday, January 21, 2019

What to do with sixteen inches of snow

The second thing I did this morning was reschedule my 10 a.m. endo appointment.  While doing so, I realized 10 a.m. is no longer the catbird time for a first thing in the morning doctor appointment.

Six months down the road could be winter! Maybe I want to take a shower and read the news. Or look out the window at a car buried, all but a side view mirror. See that black speck! So I rescheduled for 11 a.m. Some time in March. No more tensies.

According to the National Weather Service, we had sixteen inches. Laura shoveled all of them! Here are some more pictures:

Lost bench! The green glass globe has a snug cap. The neighbor whose turquoise car was buried yesterday has retreated across the street, waiting for his parking space to be plowed.

Mid afternoon we made a run to the drug store to pick up prescriptions.

On returning, the snow has not melted, but the cap slipped off the globe.

It is so black and white and grey! Fortunately, tomorrow is cards. Nancy and I are playing catchup; we're twenty points down for the year. 

Even more urgently, my next warp cannot turn another revolution until UPS brings my five pound cones from Kansas. Between that and breakfast Wednesday with Lynn, I can make it.

Did I mention, it's cold? Eleven degrees, on the way to minus three. But on Wednesday, it will be fifty and rain. So much for Trump's climate change.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

A quiet day today

Years ago, in 1950, my grandma came down for Thanksgiving, wearing a spring coat. It began snowing in the afternoon, then overnight, and all day Friday, and all weekend, too, according to legend. 

It was more than a week before Grandma went home. She and mom caught up on mending, including all the socks that had to be darned. How my brothers loved wearing "those darned socks" that Grandma passed to them, with that bad word attached.

Today was that kind of quiet, surreal. Laura spent hours outside, on three major snow moving jobs, all in our drive, and one more to help Cathy next door. I saw Ron across the street pushing an electric shovel, and that's the first time in three years I've seen it out.

Next to Ron, a young couple who came a year ago last fall. They are round and rolly, like Tonka Willow figures. He came out and shoveled for an hour this morning. He moved a lot of snow. He came out later and shoveled fiercely, but then decided to make a dash for it.

He called his wife out, put her behind the wheel. I watched him give her steering directions by circling his fingers. Then he began pushing, to no avail. He hadn't cleared behind and the drift was to the bumper. He got the shovel, she plied the snow brush. They reduced the barrier by half.

Back as they were, she steering, he pushing mightily. Before he heaved, he looked both ways, as if there were anything on the road. At last she was out and pointed the right direction. He kissed her goodbye, and as her pink plush jammies went back up the steps, I gave him an arm pump and a thumbs up. He grinned and went to work (I assume).

I hemmed sixteen towels from the last warp and wound several bouts of the new warp. I'm dead in the water, though, until my last order of warp arrives from Kansas. Diane told me on Saturday, when I ordered it, they'd had six inches.

When the snow began. The last picture I took, several shots above, the snow was an inch from the bench.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Heavy snow possible Saturday and Sunday; as much as 30 inches to a foot of snow predicted

The title of the post is the headline in today’s Beacon Journal. The Akron Beacon Journal, my childhood newspaper. The repository of funnies and Ann Landers. Even back then my dad would occasionally task me with circling all the grammatical and spelling errors in the day’s edition.

It’s a very slim edition these days and most stories are from the wire.  They do cover the local news, which oscillates between crime and road construction, with a high probability of high school sports every weekend, and our major sports teams, the Cavaliers, the Browns, the Indians. It’s often called the Reekin’ Journal, which is not fair. Transposed information is not new for them.

Good news for those of us pretty far west in the eastern time zone, it’s daylight for about half an hour past five in the evening. On the first day of winter, December 20, more or less, it is dark at 4:59! But the big snow storm Saturday probably obscures our eclipse event.

Here’s another thing that annoys me. Newspapers and magazines that cannot keep track of subscriptions. I was following a thread in the Reekin’ Journal recently, and the article would fade to grey and tell me my subscription was run out. “Well fine!”, and I'd move on to the next paper in my in-box. Eventually I was fed up, subscribed, and went to Wisconsin for Christmas.

I tried opening the Journal when I came back. My password had expired; check my inbox for a new password. Days went by. Then one day, the Journal opened. Go figure.

But how about a big, important publication, The New Yorker. I got the brand new tote last November or December, just to show I’d responded to the renewal notice. I read a current article, What it Felt Like when “Cat Person” went Viral. A flyer at the bottom of the screen informed me I had three articles left this month. Not to worry, when their knickers are in a total twist I’ll just sign in and release the hold.

The article was about the author’s original piece, Cat Person, going viral. I’d not read that, and there was a link to it, back at the beginning of the piece. I scrolled up and clicked on the link.  And, I glanced at the flag at the end. Now I have two articles left this month.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Cutting on the lights

I’m listening to the book, Running on Red Dog Road by Drema Berkheimer. It’s a simple memoir of Appalachian childhood. I am selecting this type over and over these days. I don’t remember the names and authors, of course, but in the last couple of months I have read the opinions and recollections of several authors of the meaning of their early years. How their character was formed by the mines, by housing, by nutrition, by money, by education, by prejudice, by religion, by relatives.

In this book the author casually relates entering a building and cutting on the lights. Two friends sprang at once to mind; Nina and Starlett.  You know Nina, of course. Put her name in the search box; it’s worth the detour to read about a town stalwart. I asked Nina why the phrase was cutting on and off for lights. Her explanation involved the electrical circuit and starting and stopping the flow of electricity. I let it go.

Starlett was a child of Appalachia who grew up in its suburb, Akron, Ohio. Child of the post World War II industrial boom, yet enmeshed in her parents’ dream of returning to the homeland, rural Tennessee.  Starlett died this week; she succumbed to the worst of Appalachia.

My sister Jan was the big sister to Star, who grew up on the street behind us. Jan is ten plus years younger than me, and Star probably five behind Jan. I know her birthday was last Thanksgiving, so let’s say Star got sixty years from life. She always was looking for it to be better.

Star’s father worked in the tire factory. Every Friday night he and Shirley put the two kids in the car and drove to Coker Creek, Tennessee. Over the course of Star’s childhood, they built a house there, and retired to it. Starlett and her brother spent every summer in the very big extended family. Jan remained Star’s friend, all her life, and I tagged along for visits.

Star married Donnie while she still lived in Akron. She was the love of his life and his aim in life was to save her from herself. For, Star fell victim to the curse of her age, drugs. When she was sober, she held promising jobs. For the longest time of all she worked for Arbegast, a fly fishing lure manufacturer. Her flies were exquisite; the company gave her a set. But they fired her too, for excessive absence.

Finally Star moved back to Tennessee, where she met Mark. Such a wedding. Her daddy built a bridge across the branch in the yard and shaved his beard to walk her across. Jan and I went into the mountain and cut rhododendrons and azaleas to fill the buckets up each side of the aisle. Mom hemmed the bridegroom’s trousers; I took pictures.

Jan kept in touch. We visited. There was a little boy, Jordan, who grew up in the tin roofed house in a holler. The water to the house was one of the many natural springs in the mountains. Star and Mark both smoked, and Star moved heaven and earth for any narcotic. Then Jan learned Star had moved to Seattle, with a new husband, hoping to make a new life.

Of course they came back, drifted about, settled down on property of her parents. Occasionally Jan heard from Star, or from Shirley. Star was revived more than once with narcan. But her death was a quiet event in her sleep; cutting off the lights.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

A quiet day

I often tell people I have nothing to do and all day to do it. That generally means I'm up for anything that hits the table. I use google's calendar. It fits on my phone, so I can add appointments, commitments, notes on the spot. I try to check it each night, so I am not taken by surprise the next day.

Today is one of those completely blank days. I love them. 

Yesterday was all sunshine, until winter moved back in with ugly clouds, big noisy rain drops.

I chased the rainbow down the road, to a school parking lot.

Today I had another slice of Boston Brown Bread for breakfast. Here it is, toasted. If swimming in butter doesn't suit you, skip ahead. Two more slices and the loaf is gone.

And my job for today is to hem the twelve towels I took off the loom yesterday. 

Then there will be twenty four assorted colors, and I can begin again finding people to send them to. 

Toby has a decent response to the snow and cold out the window.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Boston Brown Bread (and, I found the lima beans)

I prowled deeper into Kriegers, today, still in search of canned lima beans. Everything our larder lacked for BBB was on Laura’s list. I need lima beans, preferably canned. I’ll address that first. In the extremely olden days, when I still lived in Lake County, after all my cookerers were gone, I had to (gasp) prepare meals.

After little experimentation, I settled on the following recipe:

Cook one bag of noodles, drain, set aside
Melt one stick of butter in the noodle pot
Add one can each, tomatoes, lima beans, corn, peas
Add stuff in season, like chopped up peppers
Add noodles
Eat one soup bowl of above every night for supper
Go out one night per week with someone for dinner
Go to mom’s one day of the weekend for nutritious meal

Now that I am more sophisticated, I bet I’ll figure out how to add onions, garlic and herbs.

I lived nicely this way for several years, until I fell in again with a cookerer. I do not need lima beans at once, but I will come spring. The back story is, Laura went over to her mother’s side years ago, which I always suspected. But recently she tipped her hand brusquely and I was too crushed, on reflection, to carry on.  I’ve been rowing upriver long enough. At the end of this school year, Laura goes back to mom.

Look at this! Just chop spinach or kale or greens of choice and stir in. But back to the discussion at hand:

My three bedroom unit is too much space, and I think two bedrooms are, too. I spotted the cutest little pup of a unit the other day, and asked the manager. Yes, it’s one bedroom. It’s occupied, so she can’t show me.

However, the next unit to be placed is one bedroom, right behind my neighbor, Cathy. The rent is nearly half as much! It has my name on it. When the manager is back from vacation, next week, I’ll try and finalize some details, like a ramp to the deck and a walk in shower. I could be happy for the rest of my life.

Back to Boston Brown Bread. I found a recipe for baked and many recipes to be steamed on top of the stove. Because I strongly recall baking the bread, I settled for that, first time. I’ll try steamed in a pot next time. My bread pot will go either way, I hope.

When we moved here, Linda outfitted our kitchen with anything we wanted from Alberta’s kitchen. One thing was a large “coffee cup” that Alberta used for wooden spoons and spatulas and such like. It’s resided unused in the back of a cupboard, and I spotted it. We measured it at over four cups. Bonanza.

The red tin cup went into a glass pan of boiling water and into the oven. It has its own lid, but I don’t know how well that will work. I have it well greased, at any rate. Stay tuned for a taste test report.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Boston brown bread

Random association happens to me. A sort of idle past time, perhaps. Free association may be a closer descriptor. Something I see triggers a string of associations that may form a cloud of images, snatched away almost before I see or recognize them. And occasionally, something sticks.

I was deep in the aisles of our free range grocery store a while back, simply trying to locate and memorize the location of items I might want some day. Lima beans, for instance. 

I’d located frozen lima beans, had no hope for canned lima beans, but held out for the possibility of dried limas way in the back. The far opposite end of the store from organic peanut butter, stocked in isolation with dried fruit.

Deep in the cream of tartar section of the store, on a top shelf, I saw rye flour, and whole wheat flour. And blackstrap molasses. On the way home I asked Laura if she’d ever had Boston brown bread, a wasted inquiry of a seventeen year old, of course.

“Do you have any empty tin cans?” I asked. But, she doesn’t source food from tin cans. “You made chili!” And she had, probably last September.

We had a lot of Boston brown bread when I grew up, compliments of me. I loved it, and it really was as simple as washing clean a couple of tin cans, and keeping track of them until the weekend. Probably the only ingredient that came up short was buttermilk or sour milk, and that was as simple as regular milk and vinegar and half an hour.

Mom always had wheat or rye flour on hand, and cornmeal. I see in the google recipe, the cornmeal must be fine ground. As if! I wonder if you could even buy it fine ground in 1947. Cream cheese? When federal farm subsidies fly. There always were raisins on hand, and brown sugar. And so, a couple of loaves of Boston brown bread for supper on Saturday night.

I wondered tonight if I could buy tin cans to bake round loaves of bread. So, I set out on a search. The closest I came was little tins, three inches across and an inch high. I leaned back in the chair and thought about Boston brown bread. 

Of course! It had to come out of the can by the awkward method of putting the can on its side, on something high enough to keep the top of the loaf intact, and use the can opener to get the bottom off the can. Then, use the bottom to push out the loaf.

I remember it with hot dogs and baked beans. (Boston baked beans?) With sauerkraut and pork chops. With tomato soup.

Oh no! I bet modern tin cans cannot be used.