Friday, October 31, 2014


So I have been asking myself that deep philosophical question posed to me by some of my readers in respondes to the prior post.  Why did I not react as they would have?  What was holding me back?  Was I afraid to admit my mistake?  Am I the type of person that plows onward even if the plow is now turning soil in another field?  Was there some issue I saw in their approach that would be more negative than positive?  Had I some insight that they were not able to understand?  Was this a political issue?  I thought long and hard on this.  And the only reason, which did not come to the forefront of my mind at the time, but was probably deep in my subconscious lobe, was frugality.  Who would wash away down the drain so much sugar?  Cups and cups of that expensive and important ingredient?

Maybe I am overthinking this...but who knows.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The New Recipe for CRABapple Pie??

50 apples for $14.00?  That sounds like a deal.  Mix and match even?  I could choose as many as I wanted from the Virginia gold bin, the Winesap bin, the golden delicious bin, the Stayman bin, the Roma bin, the York apples bin and the granny smith bin.  There may have been a few more bins, but I had already filled my half bushel paper sack and was studying the shiny reds, peach blushes and yellows with anticipation as I carried them to the wooden counter just beside a small barn.

Since I grew up in a family where money was scarce, bargains on foods tend to catch my eye and the fall abundance of apples always calls to me.  We drive three hours West in a hybrid car and find a local orchard and then buy apples.  Some we eat before we get home and all the others I process and freeze for desserts.  We also were invited to walk the orchards up the steep hill, which after sitting for hours in a car, and with camera in hand, was the best offer I had been given all day.  Almost all of the apples had been picked from the trees, but there was still beauty to capture as the afternoon sun fell across the hillside.

Now, back to processing apples---but with a twist!  Stick with me here.  While the texture of a frozen apple is not as crisp once frozen, that fall apple flavor does remain.  We core them with an apple corer, peal them and then slice them into equal sizes keeping the species types apart just for our own preferences.  We immediately put them into a bowl of water and lemon juice to keep them from browning.  Our sweetest and crispest were the Winesaps and they seemed to brown the fastest as well, no matter how snappy we worked...chop chop.

When the particular  apple batch is are all done, I take out the slices from the huge bowl and let them drain in my hands before dumping a full pie serving amount into a freezer Ziplok bag labeled by apple type and date.  I add a pre -mixed mixture of cinnamon/nutmeg/allspice to taste, about half a cup of sugar or 1/4 brown and 1/4 white sugar together, and a little salt and a teaspoon or more of cornstarch depending on their juiciness.  I toss the slices a few times to coat them with the bag sealed.  Then, squeezing all the air out of the bags, I pop them into the freezer for winter desserts.

With 50 apples hubby and I got an assembly line going.  We were moving like a Japanese train on schedule, but my one glitch was that I had just cleaned out my pantry closet a few days before.  Shelves washed, items moved and reorganized, some items taken to the basement, others to give away.  A photo below showing a part of the closet and clearly illustrating how neat and organized it was!  All the bins were labeled!  The spices in pseudo-alphabetical order.  But a bit of a mistake because ... well, perhaps you can see in the second photo.

Yes, I used the jar on the right side.  I did not read the labels!!  Into the first 5 batches of pie filling went Old Bay crab spice! (Something those of us who steam crabs use tons of in the summer.)  Once I discovered my mistake by licking a finger I changed jars and into the last 6 batches went the cinnamon that I was supposed to add.  We labeled those freezer bags that had Old Bay spice because I am too cheap to throw this food out and figured I may find some way to use that mistake. (Maybe stuff apples into chicken or use with a pork roast?)

We decided to make a pie that very afternoon with the mistake spices (Old Bay) package...and much to our surprise, while it was not super good without the cinnamon, it was really quite delicious and just a tiny bit unusual.  But we each ate our entire piece of pie and we will certainly finish the rest of the pie!  In the future I will add the pie spices to those batches and perhaps another bit of fruit or nuts and top with butter bits.

Hubby just dumped the slices into a pre-made pie shell with some disdain after draining the juices which he felt might be too salty and then he watched it bake not anticipating an edible snack.  But we were both pleasantly surprised.

So I posted on FB that I am going to call this my "Crab Apple Pie."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Back to the City

Seems I am in a bit of rut, as I headed back to the city on Sunday.  Usually my husband does the driving and I help with the technological wizards that talk us through the street turns.  This time I made the decision to drive in on my own.  This was a really big decision for me as I am terrified to try to find a place on my own in the city...TERRIFIED.  Some folks get anxiety on meeting new people, others find it anxiety producing to throw a dinner party, and of course giving a speech usually ranks right up there in heart-pounding efforts, and even others are anxious to reach the top of a cliff and look back down.   All of these things are thrilling to me, but not terrifying.

None terrify me as much as trying to find an address in an unfamiliar part of town and then finding parking in the crowded areas of a city and all with a time deadline!  I had been invited to a class by a 30-something new friend I have made and I just knew at my age hanging out with 30-somethings is essential to good health!  This gal admires me for some unknown reason.  She is smart as a whip, independent as an albatross, and doing interesting things in her own life right now.

So, throwing caution to the wind (or whatever trite expression you want to insert here), I dropped hubby off at the son's house, plugged in my destination, and headed deep into the bowels of the city.  The mapquest folks wanted to take me straight through the heart of the city to the other side, but with a major marathon taking place as well a numerous streets under construction, I was smart enough to program a bypass way.

I allowed myself about 20 minutes extra time, and I still arrived 5 minutes late!  Every parallel parking space left on the side streets was 4 inches too short for my compact car.  I finally found a space just in front of the bus stop and three blocks away, but not blocking any city buses.  I backed in and locked the car rushing off all the while praying I had not misread the signs and would not be towed!

When I had gone online I saw that the meeting was in one of those tall brick apartment buildings on a tree shaded street.  I had written my gal friend about an apartment number, but she said she did not have one, so I assumed we would meet out front, in the side yard or the lobby.   I got to the building exactly 3 minutes late, opened the door and found I could not move beyond the little entry room and was faced by the dial-in directory.  It has been years since I have used directories in apartment buildings but I figured out how to scroll through the two dozen names and nothing seemed familiar.  I paused.  I did not have my gal friend's phone number...just her email.  I dialed into the email on my phone and just 15 minutes earlier I saw she had emailed the name of the person giving the class and the apartment number.  With a little old-age dyslexia I finally got buzzed in and headed up two flights of stairs.  Reading small print on apartment directories and going up two flights of stairs...challenges that rarely give the 30-ish crowd pause...already had me a little out of breath.

As I entered the cute little apartment, I saw the other young ladies had already started on their  mimosas and brief introductions were made.  I found it easy to fit in and soon the class was started.  It was nothing super-special...something I could easily have picked up in a book on my own or watching a YouTube video...but my learning experience this day was far more important than this class, and perhaps, not something these single gals would not understand at this time in their lives?

Oh, this is what I took home at the end of class...yes it got knocked around a little in the car...but so did I!

So what thing gives you more than pause...what gives you a terrifying bit of time?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Taking a Pulse

I was in the "city" a few days ago.  I was actually in an outside town of the city, but the power and the pressure of the city are so great that it leaks over into the air and smells and sounds and activities.  You have heard about the pulse of a city?  It is exactly that.  Like a heart rhythmically racing in a march to the end of the day.  I had forgotten this undercurrent.  There was a meeting...a series of meetings... and thus the day began early in the first muggy light with the heaviness of gray endless rain, the irregular pumping of brake lights, the tick, tick, tick of a turn signal at the intersection, the spray as cars fled by.  I had forgotten it all, but it was just like riding a bicycle.  It comes back with a somber vengeance.  Mothers rushing children under umbrellas, men avoiding puddles in shiny shoes, well dressed women never looking down, young men with an aimless morning to fill as they hung out at the local coffee shop.

I must admit that it was not all dismay.  There was the excitement of an energy I had forgotten.  The throbbing of a pulse that told you there was life, the stimulus of people with places to be and things to do, things that might even affect your life.

I had returned to an area I lived in about a decade ago and the changes were amazing in places and the lack of change was both dismaying and reassuring in other places.  There is lots of creativity in cities.  Creativity in products and in ideas.  People with hope meet in cities.  People planning big jobs live in cities.  I had been living in the edies of the world and thus had to make sure my paddle was well into the water as the currents shoved me here and there.

But at the end of the day I was glad to return to my woods, to my place of restorative pauses, slow thought and more realistic hope. I guess mankind needs both, and a balance of both places is best.

Monday, October 20, 2014


A little perspective.  I do not normally walk 7 or more miles.  Hubby and I do walk about 3 to 4 miles when we take a hike in our local parks and woods during the warmer weather.  I do run between 3 and 4 miles on the elliptical in my basement about 5 or 6 times each month.  So, the 7 miles, while strenuous, was not a super challenge.  We started about 11:30 in the morning and got back to our cars about 4:30 P.M. stopping frequently for photography and once for lunch.  You can do this.  Perhaps not on a tree root covered path, but on a sidewalk around your town.  I think you would be surprised.  Even if you have serious health issues, just walking a little ways is good for you.  Just add a quarter or half mile each time and breathe sweetly the good air.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Those First Steps

The best advice I got from my readers to improve my health was to walk.  It requires no special equipment and can be done almost anytime and anywhere.  I just read a recent study that revealed that the best way to lengthen our telomeres which lie at the ends of our chromosomes and keep us from aging was walking and standing...even better than actual exercise!

So two days ago I took a 7 and a half mile walk in the woods around a nearby artificial lake.  Yesterday I spent several hours wearing a weight vest as I cleaned house, vacuuming and mopping all the floors.

If you want to enjoy with me the beautiful walk I took,  go here.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Bite of Reality.

Since the Ebola epidemic is on almost everyone's mind these days, I think it is time for me to do a health post.  I just wanted to update a few of you who know that I have been struggling with some small health concerns prior to my trip to Ireland and after my return.  I will not do this again as I hate writing about my health!  What a bore!

Anyway, there was a time just last year when I could brag/blog that I was under no prescription medications.  I was shooting toward 70 and still in reasonably good health.  Then this year I changed doctors and after a whole battery of new tests and a couple of lingering illnesses and resulting doctor's visits I have been informed that I have osteoporosis and must take a prescription for that along with calcium and vitamin D supplements in goodly number.

Also, since my lungs decided to turn themselves inside out this summer and I had a chronic cough for no discernible reason,  I was given an an x-ray just before my trip.  I was also given heavy duty cough medicine.  The X-ray showed several things: that I "probably have underlying mild COPD," I certainly have a mild scoliosis and definitely have some bone degeneration in the scapula.  This diagnosis and a collection of prescriptions to loosen phlegm in my lungs and reduce coughing at night made me pull up for a time. 

Then 4 days upon my return I got a sore throat which went into an upper respiratory virus and I was back to coughing once again.  Upon my return I was given something even stronger and the result was that I lacked energy for a while and the contrast from my high energy activities while in Ireland gave me pause about all this drugging.  Last week I still was weak from my flu that I probably caught in the Dublin airport or on the plane and added to  all of the above I added a mild depression to my disposition.  The depression seemed to me to be both psychological and chemical!  Researching COPD was not helpful.

As I weaned myself off the medicines for the lung infection I got my energy back and my creative urges have now returned along with a better disposition.  I am almost back to normal.  I am lifting hand weights again trying to strengthen back muscles for my lungs.  I am sleeping much, much better as well. I have far less health issues than many of my loved ones, so no complaining here.

But, reality bites, doesn't it?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


I was thinking about the comments that I got from my last post about the young man in the grocery store.  I guess I did give the impression that I looked down my nose at grocery clerks.  I do not, although it is not a job I would want to have.  I respect anyone who can stand on their feet all day and deliver a presence in their work and still have the energy to be pleasant and make small talk.  I also realize that it was my shortsightedness that indicated he would have no future in this career path.

My own view on savings, though, comes from my history.   I had to save money all of my life, even when I was a kid.  Money was set aside for holiday gifts long before stuff for myself.  As I got older, a certain percentage was set aside for college expenses.  Maybe I felt free of money pressures when I was under ten, but never after that.  I grew up in a family where saving money was as important as praying is in other families.  Save for life improvement, save for a rainy day and if there was some left over save for something fun.

I never went on vacations (except for camping or visiting relatives) until much, much, later in my life.   As a young woman clothes were purchased when necessary and repaired as needed.  Fashion was considered a way to lose money easily.   We grew much of our own food.  I sewed most of my clothes and those of my children...all as a means of saving money.  I am now in a very different economic group ( I think, due in part, to being frugal in my youth), and feeling thankful if sometimes a little embarrassed for that.

I have a republican nephew who feels strongly that poor people are poor because they are lazy and stupid and that liberals are short-sighted in wanting to raise the minimum wage to reward these low-class people who have demonstrated a lack of effort in furthering themselves.  He thinks that hamburger flippers are stupid for taking such a low paying job in the first place.  He feels you make your own breaks.  To a small extent he is right.  But to a large extent chaos reigns in peoples lives and many people get broken through no fault of their own.

But for a liberal such as I, when in front of such a cavalier young earner as my grocery clerk in this day and age, I almost think a little more like a republican.

Monday, October 13, 2014


Waiting in line at the grocery store, I am once again at the register of that young man not much older than 20.  He is easygoing and carefree, reflected in his chubby size and casual smile.  I wonder how someone his age can be happy working as a register clerk checking people through with coupons, asking if they want their chicken in plastic, counting the bags they have brought, and then making small talk before reading their gas points to them from the receipt.  Maybe it is because I am not a fan of small talk.  I can play the game with the best of them and I can cheer anyone up at this game or ignore them if I have to.  But he has to do it for a living.

Since he has been working at the store for a couple of years I have been able to draw him out in the small talk game we play as he slides my grapes across the scale.  I have learned that he loves fantasy games, Comic Con, science fiction novels and Halloween.  He is already way too set in his ways for someone so young.  He already knows it all, and is the first to reach any conclusion that satisfies his view of the world.

This week he was talking to a heavy set customer with feathery blonde hair and a smoker's wheeze in her voice as she finished paying for her groceries.  They were discussing how expensive food had become, how the minimum wage was too low and other familiar subjects about making ends meet.   He handed her the receipt and then turned to me as she left and said he really was not too worried about raising the minimum wage because he already made over ten dollars an hour and he was also due for a promotion and even more money.  (Check Out Clerk Level II?)

I felt a small dark cloud move in behind me.

"I hope you are saving something,"  I said trying to catch his eye as his hands moved my yogurt containers across the scanner.

He looked up with his self-same grin and said that he most certainly was saving.  He said that he had $400 already set aside. 

"I have been saving for some time.  I am waiting for a certain flat screen TV to go on sale and then I want to add an X-box to the system."

I kept my smile as tight as a Marilyn Monroe sweater and tried not to sigh too audibly.  That was not the saving I was thinking about.   I was thinking about saving for tomorrow, that tomorrow which for his age never comes.  I thanked him and collected my groceries, knowing his world view right now was very different from mine and that this generation is never going to get old.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Faces of Ireland

It seems that everywhere I travel I find a song of life that grabs me and worms its way deep into my heart.  It adds one more thread to that tapestry that is mankind and is also another puzzle part of me.   I felt that song with the brave energy of warrior songs in Hungary last year and I felt it again in the lyrical beauty of this Ireland where human bravery took on a heartbreaking honesty and gentle love.

Here are a few faces of that magical Ireland.

An artisan cutting crystal at Waterford factory.
Good looking, full of jokes and stories, following a family tradition with his own carts and horses and becoming the perfect romantic horseman for our carriage ride.
A busker outside the National Library who stopped to talk to me and told me he was working on a Masters in Literature and Language.
Originally from Brooklyn and transplanted here with his Irish wife to enjoy a better life.  Full of the gift of gab and flirted with my DIL.  Told us he still dragged his wife out on weekends to look at "stones."
Our teacher and guide in the church bell tower.  Tight as a whip and probably too devout but patient with our messy efforts to attempt to ring those historic bells.
Our very first guide and our first red-head to remind us that Vikings had been here.
A busker on the mall, unique in face.
More evidence that Vikings has been here.
Such abundant red hair!
OMG!!  Hoping these guys are wearing wigs!
My last post on this trip, and I thank you for keeping the tea warm.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Dubliners--Part III

The next day after breakfast at the same B&B and just before leaving, we spent some time talking with the man of the B&B who informed us that we were going to be in Dublin fortuitously during the National Hurling Championships.  We were told that it would be a busy crowded weekend with the numerous fans.  He had also booked a place himself to be there on that evening as he was a big hurling fan.  Our B&B host was a short but well-built man in his late 50's just full of energy and full of the gift of gab.  He reminded me of a bull dog with his stance and a leprechaun with his expressive waving of his arms as he talked about his love of the game reenacting his favorite hurling plays.   He had in some way been affiliated with a team that won the hurling championships a few years ago when playing off a tie game.   He was so excited to talk about the sport and had several enthusiastic tales to tell of that event.  He spoke rapidly and we were trying hard to understand through the strong accent and the idiomatic expressions what he was talking about while we did catch the familiar four-letter words sprinkled like spice through-out his tales and several funny jokes.  It seemed at that historic game there was a "mystery" player that had replaced an injured primary player at the very last minute.   Since they do wear helmets the fans and press could not recognize him by his face as they made him keep his helmet on.   This fill-in player was young, maybe 19(?), and thus they didn't want the opposing team to know how far they had gone to get a last minute replacement.  The mystery player made some very impressive plays and was important in helping his team win.  Such a typical sports talk!  He then told us which pub we absolutely had to go to in Dublin to watch the game which is about 80 minutes long, and if it ends in a be it...they play again the next week!

The walk to the area took us through typical Dublin crowds in a major shopping area.  Most of these people are tourists, I am guessing.

The Dublin Canal is in the photo above.

We had the two young people (son and DIL)  to make sure we found the "Living Room" which actually seemed to be several pubs together and was a rather large sports viewing place.  We got there about an hour before the game and most people were watching the Ryder's Cup, so we lucked out on getting a table for the six of us at the time that golf game ended.

All the typical fan stuff (Kilkenny and Tipperary) was being sold on the streets and the bars had colored balloons representing the teams hung across the doors outside.  The little lassie above with the heart shaped face was so excited for her team.

I nursed a glass and a half of Guinness, while some of the others in my party polished off a couple of pitchers of the respected ale.

Sorry no photos of the actual game..but you can Google it.

What a lucky time for us in Dublin!

Next let me talk about the people we met.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Galway Folks--Part II

The most important part of travel is, of course, the people that you meet. The whole point of travel is to stretch your mind and test your ideas and learn new ways of seeing the world, and to be happy that the ugly American has not ruined it for us all.  You can see all the stone edifices, drink and eat at all the pubs, and take all the tours, but the real richness is in meeting the people, the ones you can actually have one on one time with.  While I have photos of lots of interesting buskers, tour guides, shop owners, etc, the time we spent at two B&Bs on our adventure is one the best ways to talk to real citizens of the area you are visiting.  B&B owners are some of the most interesting characters because they usually love being a host or hostess, and therefore, you get a genuine feel for the area.  They love to answer questions, to tell tales of their country, and tell tales of other visitors.  Unfortunately, while Ireland has many B&Bs, as the older owners retire, new B&Bs are not being opened and the numbers of B&Bs are shrinking.

One B&B where we stayed was just outside of Galway.  The owners were the ones that told us that the first day of the International Galway Oyster Festival was the very next night ...which also happened to have free admission!   So, we headed out that Friday evening and Hubby was looking forward to tasting a few of the famous Irish oysters.   He was impressed...although the prices were not cheap.  The festival band was truly energetic and fun!  I had a camera backpack and camera and had no where to leave them (that is my excuse), but hubby was hands-free and joined in the merriment.  By the third Irish dance the young girls were down to their tank tops and other young men joined the circle.  I was a little surprised that more people were not dancing.  The band also played for professional Irish dancers in between times.  What a pleasurable experience!  You cannot listen to Irish music and not at the very least tap your foot.

Since my readers seem to want to learn more about this trip I will next post photos of our two hours watching people hurl in a bar in Dublin...;-)

Friday, October 03, 2014

Those Oldies But Goodies--Part I

I selected 14 photos to represent the vast history and the interesting architecture of the island of Ireland.  If you have no desire to see someone else's "slide show," I will understand.

Ireland has a rich and ancient history and  we were able to see all kinds of buildings and ruins in our quick week.  I will post just a few here.  Lets start with the oldest.  A neolithic stone circle dating to the bronze age and also known as Druids Circle.  This one is the Stone of Kenmare which is a five minute walk from the center of the town of Kenmare.  There was an honesty box for a small fee to enter, and we were the only ones there on that afternoon which made it most spiritual and enjoyable!  There was a thorn tree hung with prayer ribbons and whatnot, but not so much stuff as to clutter the tree or the peace of the place.

Keeping on the history time-line we visited the burial tombs from the 12th Century.  This one in the photo below found in the area called the Burrens, named after a clan that lived and ruled in the Cork County Area, was haunting.  The Burrens is 260 kilometers of limestone pavements criss-crossing the hillsides.  In the 1640's Cromwells surveyor described it as a "savage land, yielding neither water enough to drown a man, nor tree to hang him,nor soil enough to bury."  The limestone surface we saw dated from 10,000 years ago.  Winters rarely go below 43F in winter and above 59F in summer and thus it has a long and mild growing season with lovely alpine flowers in the cracks in the stone in the spring.  The last photo below is the Poulnabrone portal tomb where human bones had been found.

We also saw the Cliffs of Moher on this region, but I will spare you at least some photos!

More modern in time are the ruins of castles and we saw three in one day.  I wish we could have stayed in one, but it was too rich for my traveling companions and it is always good to leave some reason to return. There are ruins of castles all over Ireland! 

The most famous is, perhaps, Blarney Castle.  The Blarney Stone is believed to be half of The Stone of Scone upon which the Kings of Scotland were crowned and was believed to have come from Jerusalem.  Half the stone is now in Edinburgh, Scotland and the other half in Blarney according to legend.   The owner makes money on these legends, but it seems that no one really knows the real history of the stone.  To kiss the Blarney Stone you have to lean backwards out of the parapet.  While some of my party kissed the stone, I am full of way too much blarney and passed.

The Rock of Cashell has a stunning view of the countryside as well as the ruins of a distant Abbey in the second photo below.   The buildings included in the complex: 12th century round tower, High Cross and Romanesque Chapel, 13th century Gothic cathedral, 15th century Castle and the restored Hall of the Vicars Choral.  You must take the tour as the history is worth it.  You can see in the photo below that they are working to maintain the walls of the chapel which are beginning to erode from moisture.

And then on our trip we saw the more modern buildings such as Christ's Church Cathedral in Dublin where we actually got to ring the bells!!  I had watched an old British mystery on TV which revolved around the bell ringers of a small village church.  I never realized how much strength and balance goes into ringing bells as well as how dangerous it can actually be!  I was totally out of breath by the end of the few minutes I pulled that rope. Three of us rang at one time and we had to remain in sync.  The first one to ring had to get the rhythm and ended up ringing for the longest,  I was the last to join in with the assistance of the "Towerkeeper" and I was certainly out of breath by the end.

And finally Trinity College also in Dublin where the young man, our guide, was both funny and knowledgeable.  It was his last tour as he had graduated and was on to bigger and better things...journalism.  We, of course, saw the Book of Kells and passed by the shelves of the many rare books in that same library.  (Note his "Harry Potter" jacket which all tour guides are required to wear.  It is so old that the black has faded to green.)

It amazes me that these leather bound books are in bright sunlight and even some areas had windows open!  We were told that books were shelved according to size rather than subject!

Well that is a brief review of the structures made of stones.  There is a lot of stone on the island!!