Saturday, May 29, 2010

Salad days

To anyone over 40, 'salad days' means a time of youth, innocence and inexperience. To me, salad days means I planted the garden! Yes, and, this year, it's a dedicated garden in the back 40 again instead of being jerryrigged around the pool area. So, in went tomatoes, radishes, arugula (LOTS of it), summer squash, zucchini, patty pan squash (mom loves those), cantaloupe, cucumbers, peas and beans. All is looking quite well at the moment as the garden area is contained by a 6 foot tall fence to thwart the deer and rabbits - seems to be working at the moment. Everything is flourishing.

I have a nice herb section on the deck - Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (there's a song in there), sweet stems of basil (one of my favorites), lemon sage. Speaking of herbs, here's a nice article about growing rosemary which grows so s-l-o-w. This is from a friend, Susan Golis, on ehow: How to grown creeping rosemary. It's a nice article and a good herb to try out - love it on roasted pork. And, if you have a garden and plant carrots, here's my friend Peggy's nice article about how to make a great carrot cake. I love good recipes like that. Yummy.

Now, the most interesting part of this story is that I've fallen head over heels in love with tomatoes, having spent 50 years of my life deploring the red, spitting things. It wasn't until Dad died, that summer of 2007, that I started eyeing tomatoes with a different, well, eye. Somehow, and this is akin to someone who has been blind waking up and seeing one day, I fell in love hard with tomatoes. I just couldn't get enough of the things. If they didn't get so soggy, they would have been inserted in my coffee cup. No one was more surprised than me, except, possibly, Gert. I truly believe it was my Dad's spirit engulfing me. His love of tomatoes was so strong that he used to take a salt shaker into the garden and sit and just dine for an hour or so, picking the ripest, reddest fruit. At those 'pick you own stands' we always used to kid that they should have weighted Dad at the end of our visit instead of the paltry 4 tomatoes he held out like a kid in his paper sack.

I've also got Dad and my sister's memorial garden going pretty nicely this year. I lost some trees in the blizzard and, as with anything, the loss of something is the gain of something else. So, the loss of those towering pines means the sun shines down more freely into my small garden and I have more of a choice of plants. So, I started tending it with relish this year and added in some more flowers, hostas, and even 2 hydrageas for those beautiful blooms that will adorn our picnic table.

So, as I tend to my little plots of earth, I sit and think about my Dad and sister. It's one of the few times I get to just focus on memories of Dad. Oh, sure, Mom and I speak of him all the time - his presence is still quite strong between us and in this house that he loved. We still laugh at the things I used to make him do, like put on funny red hats, or the way he called those bug candles 'cinderella candles.' We talk about how he loved Killian and how much he and Rita would have bonded. And, we laugh at Gizmo's legs as they pretty much mirror my darling father's skinny legs, so skinny, so white. Yep, he might not be sitting here in the flesh, but he's here all right. And, that's quite comforting as my own salad days wane.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

He muttered "I got this..."

...right before he fell off the jet ski.

So.....John and I took the new toy out on the Potomac yesterday. A Honda jet ski with turbo, no less. Like we needed extra power.

The weather threatened rain but we had an hour or so to play around and see what kind of rocket we had under us. Loads of fun - LOADS. We zoomed up almost to White's Ferry before turning around as the impending storm had me worried. We did get to explore parts of the river I've never been to before, and it was beautiful to see the great blue herons perching and looking for food. The day was great, and dry (at least for me...).

The river was amazing, almost glassy in spots with only a light chop in other areas, water temperature had to be around 70 or so (as would be tested by John later on).

On the way back to the boat ramp, we passed a fishing boat with 2 guys rowing - just didn't look right to me. One guy waved his hands in the air so we jetted over to check on their demise. Battery died and they were about a mile upstream (at least they had a paddle...). So, we ended up hooking the bow of their boat to the stern of the ski and pulled them to where their trailer was. They were very grateful and, having been on the rowing end of things previously, we were happy to return the favor.

So, we dropped them off and jetted back to our boat ramp at break neck speed. The thing is FAST.

We got back to Riley's Lock, where we had put in and there was some boat traffic in the area with people trying to beat the storm and pull their boats out. Interestingly, Montgomery County Water Rescue had been practicing on the river all day so there were three or four pontoon boats waiting to pull out. So, we just idled in a circle, too and fro, awaiting our turn. I could see picnicers looking out at the water and wishing they were us. There was a whole Spanish family perched on the bridge whom we had waved to, content in the thought that it was so very good to be us.

So, John just drove us around in small circles, waiting our turn, waiting, waiting, until...

He had reversed at one point and then put the ski in forward but had turned the handle bars too far to the left when he nudged the gas....

Right before he slid off, his blue eyes flew open and registered a moment of disbelief - this could NOT be happening. I think the "I got this' comment was more to convince himself that he was not going in the drink. Not to John, not this fabulous waterman, not in the middle of the canal, not with a group of Spanish picnicers (and about 100 other onlookers) laughing. No, he wouldn't, dammit.

So, he scrambled, much like a sleeping cat getting ready to fall off a warm perch. The ski pitched and yawled, port and starboard. John clung furiously to the slippery seat before sliding, quite unceremoniously, into the pea green swirl we call a canal. I believe his nail marks are still in the seat. I did make a feeble attempt at rescue by grabbing his arm (he claims I pushed him) before I realized it was every man (woman) for herself as I was NOT going in the drink. And, I didn't.

And so he slid. Almost with grace, almost with intent, in that slow motion feeling we get before something bad happens. He was in the water and back on the ski so quickly he almost didn't get wet. Needless to say, his ego was even more bruised by the fact that he got a smathering of applause, and I couldn't stop laughing. Interestingly enough, of the twelve water rescue guys, I don't think even one saw him hit the water.

I'm still laughing. OMG - it was one of the funniest things ever. And, I'm so very grateful that he has a wonderful sense of humor as I really bust out in full bell laugh about once an hour right now. He's still shaking his head and muttering 'I had that...'

Saturday, May 22, 2010

From the mouth of 'old' babes...

So, Mom wasn't doing so fantastic today and decided to just stay home for happy hour instead of meeting some old high school friends. I had Gert propped up outside on the deck, swathed in her new Mother's Day blanket when I went inside to mix a Gin martini. Uh oh; dropped the lid and it disappeared into the area under the cabinet that I affectionately think of as my own Bermuda triangle. I got down on hands and knees (no easy feat these days and I don't just mean because of age. Try kneeling down with 5 dogs in the house who all take that as a signal for a love fest....). Anyway, the top had rolled way out of reach, right smack dab in the back between two quarters and one forgotten jelly bean. Resigned to the fact that I was gin topless, I went outside and explained my demise to mom. As always, she had the right take on the situation. She said:

"Honey, that's not a problem. Just drink more gin."

Duh. Now why didn't I get my mom's smarts?...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Dad's garden

So, I spent a few hours the other day taking Mom around to various nurseries and picking up some fresh plants for Dad's garden. This is a memorial garden that I planted in memory of my Dad and sister, Steph back in 2007. It's doing fairly well but, since it's a shade garden, it's difficult to keep it interesting. I think I might have nailed it this time. It's quite peaceful out there and a lot of fun to watch it grow, I think Dad and Steph would have liked it. Purple was Steph's favorite color so I try to keep that in mind.

The angel face rose below is the most fragrant rose we've ever smelled. It's finicky but totally delightful. The gargoyle reminds me of Chessie, a dog I had once, half sharpei, half pit bull. He was sweet as sugar (mostly) and would protect me to no end. The gargoyle protects the garden, mom, John and me from evil spirits (so the theory goes). It certainly doesn't protect the garden from grazing deer...

A funny thing happened on the way to the Tiki Bar...

So, John and I boarded the boat for a 'day at sea' even though we didn't make the Carnival cruise. We were headed down to the Tiki Bar with the idea of having a few cocktails while reclining in the sun before heading over to a quiet cove for dinner and a beautiful anchor out evening. Great idea, wrong wind...

One of the things that I just love about sailing is 'you can't always get there from here.' Well, that's not true - we could have gotten there but, on the tack we were sailing, Dunn's River was smack dab ahead and winds were stiff so off we sailed. Change of plans work so well for us as we're both so flexible and not the least bit disappointed to let Mother Nature just push us where she wanted us to go. And, we couldn't have ended up in a more gorgeous spot.

So, we set off to sail around ten am. John had to reef the sail, which basically means there was some swearing, some sweating and some laughing as he set the sail up to be just half full. The wind was too stiff to have it go any further. As it was, Namaste clipped along at 7.2 knots and left quite a wake behind us. I didn't take the wheel on the way out as the wind was too much for me to even consider but John handled that boat like the pro sailor he is. So, we ended up rounding the bend into Dunn's River to the cove in about three hours.

There were only a handful of sailboats moored when we arrived so we picked a spot and put down the anchor. Up wine glass, toasting ensued, chicken was grilled and a fine time was had just watching the sun go down and enjoying an incredible evening on the water. It was 9:30 pm before we even realized the sun was setting! All in all, a fabulous evening on the Namaste. That boat is so meant to be. And, so is the Tiki Bar, in the very near future....who knows what winds will blow next weekend...

Well, since we didn't do the cruise, we've had some quite nice happy hours on the verandah with friends. Here's a fab picture (thanks Nikon ...) of Bobbi and newest little girl Gizmo.

And, these pics are the result of our run to Ron's house for Mother's Day after the non-cruise. A really great time was had.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Update on outcome of the Cruise to Nowhere (literally).

So, I heard back from Vacations To Go, the booking agent I used to book the Cruise to Nowhere - unless you consider the sitting in the Baltimore port 'somewhere.' Anyway, they've agreed to return all of the cash outlaid on the cruise which we couldn't, quite sadly, take. I was impressed with the speed of their decision, having spent 3 sleepless nights kicking myself. But, in the end, as Bubie said, everything worked out the way it was supposed to. So, onward and upward to the Beach House in June, which, I'm confident, Mom will enjoy more anyway. She'll have access to a daily newspaper, a bayfront suite, gourmet dinners (as long as Sharyn is cooking), friends and family and a few dogs thrown in for good measure. John will bring the sailboat(s) down for some bay fun during the day, gambling in the evenings at the local casino, and happy hours at the neighborhood bar. Am getting excited already. Decided to not even unpack the suitcases...they'll just await the next trip.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A funny thing happened on the way to the cruise...

...or not. Depends on your point of view.

So, I spent at least 5 days making sure I had everything needed to keep Mom healthy and happy for our 7 day cruise on the Carnival Pride out of Baltimore. New clothes? Check. Medicines for 9 days (just in case)? Check. Ensure plus meal supplements? Check. The Mary Tyler Moore show, season 1? Check. Keeping Mom propped up mentally and physically until we sailed Sunday? Check (and exhausting). Ad nauseum.

Packing for 2 (or sometimes, three...John's swim trunks? Check...)...I digressed.

Since I chose not to breed (thank the Lord for small favors), I'm not quite used to being so responsible for the health and well being of someone else, but I did my damnedest to anticipate all of Mom's needs. Stockpile of magazines? Check. Warm clothes? Check. Small lap blanket? Check. Shaving her legs? Check. Checking that walker would go through the cabin's bathroom door? Screeching halt. S-C-R-E-E-C-H-I-N-G HALT! WTF??!

Now, when I booked the cruise, Eduardo, my cruise 'assistant' ensured me that I had the largest room next to the penthouse. Liar, liar, his pants are on fire. I quizzed him at length about the room setup and was assured that this room would work for the three of us. This room was nowhere near the largest, as could be evidenced by the fact that John and I peered into and entered many rooms on our frantic rush to the front desk of the Carnival Pride to try and rectify this potentially lethal situation. Mom, thankfully, took this development with grace and humor and laid down for a nap, content in the thought that 'I had it' (thanks again, Phyllis).

Let me tell you, the front desk personnel were not the friendliest, or most sympathetic folk. In fact, they could have cared less about our plight. Just wait until that 21 year old who 'helped' us ages...Note to self: I knew there was a reason I didn't want to sail with Carnival...

Anyway, I was in a mild panic, which escalated, when we found that the cruise was fully booked and we couldn't move to a more appropriate cabin. And, as the time neared to pulling out from the dock, the panic really set in. We just couldn't be trapped on this ship with a 93 year old who couldn't use the cabin bathroom! OMG! WTF? I repeat. WHAT THE F....!!!! So, we bundled Mom back up and raced downstairs where a manager assured me that we wouldn't be trapped. Turns out that they tell people they're leaving at 4 instead of the planned 5 pm departure for the 'dawdlers.' Why can't people just be on time? Anywho...

The manager was quite accommodating while listening to my panicked plea to please let us off this boat! She calmed me down and escorted our small party through the bowels of the ship. We were salmon swimming upstream but, shoot, I didn't care. All I longed for was the shore of the good old Baltimore cruise port.

I breathed a sigh of relief once we hit the on ramp (an 'off ramp' for our purposes...) and rolled back into the port to sit and wait for our luggage, which appeared 1.15 hours later. The port employees were quite wonderful and were, unlike Carnival, sympathetic to our plight. So, here we were, 3 very weary 'travelers' (having traveled an hour to the port), dumped unceremoniously in a small heap in plastic chairs being looked upon in askance from others boarding. And, on Mother's Day, no less. Shoot....

John and I did have the foresight to pack a few cocktails in mom's wheelchair - we figured we could always tell security, if they found the hidden stash, that mom needed her little nip to keep her quiet...So, after a trip to the vending machine and under the 'non'-watchful eyes of the security guard (no sense of humor at all), a Pepsi (yuck) was had and poured along with a few miniatures of Seagrams. I went to take the picture posted above and the same security guard who was so on the ball (missing the fact that a 93 year old was getting drunk in front of her) yelled at me that no photos were allowed and I had to delete it. Yeah, right. Witness the fact that I have the photo...

But, lessons learned:

1. Although I've long realized it, John is an amazing, extraordinary man. He took the travails of yesterday with very good graces, much the way my Dad would have. I can't even imagine how my life would have been in prior years when I wasn't with a good traveler. The contrast was striking as John hid his own disappointment and was noting but supportive to both Mom and me. There was no anger, no resentment, no 'you ruined my good time.' John is as interested in keeping my mom healthy and happy as I am and is a full team member of 'Team Gert.' I can't imagine life without him. I'm firmly in love with this fabulous man. Amazing, fabulous man. His wisdom way belies his years. I'm struck on a daily basis to how similar to my Dad he is. Dad would have loved this man. As does Mom. This time around, I got it so right it's amazing.

Mom said that my Bubie (my grandmother) used to say that things work out for the best. I didn't realize that this creed, which I've long adopted, was in my genes. I firmly, FIRMLY believe that everything happens for the best. And, that though has gotten me through some pretty horrible times.

So, in the end, we decided to crash dinner at Ron's house where merriment was revisited. Steaks were served up, family warmth was provided, plenty of wine was had, and, well, a calm port within the storm was provided. And, in the end, perhaps that's where Mother's Day for my darling, wonderful mother was meant to be spent. Mom was certainly pleased, and, I believe, so was Dad. He wouldn't, however, be pleased with the fact that I appear to be out about $3K even though we have cruise insurance (don't book with Vacations to go....). Oh, I'm not about to give up but I've got a fight on my hands. Great. Just what I needed...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Readying for a cruise!

So far, all systems appear to be a 'go' but we won't know until the minute that we get on the ship that this vacation is actually happening. John and I have been walking a tightrope between talking to Mom about the cruise and not talking to Mom about the cruise. Too much cruise excitement talk seems to get Mom a bit nervous, not enough and she forgets we're going! Eh, that's ok. As her doctor told her "If you start getting worried or nervous about the trip, just remember that your daughter's got it." WHAT? I'm the one who's 'Got It?' Nice way to put pressure on the daughter, Phyllis! So, now, I'm trying to make sure I've got everything, from contraband liquor (it's going in her wheelchair), to fresh DVDs for the computer (1st year of the Mary Tyler Moore show), magazines (6 People magazines I've been storing away) - check. Got it. Wow, I really do got it - um, have it. I really do have it! John and I, at least, are really looking forward to a nice relaxing time.  And, gambling! Yes! I get to get my fix! Hot diggity.

Ok, this next piece is going to be a bit weird but: The arc bobs against a god. I was required to put that sentence in my blog to prove that I own this particular piece of work. I'm signing up for more writing assignments - this one is a review of products and websites so you might be seeing some strange stuff here soon (not that you haven't already)...eHow has changed their format and I'll still get residuals from them but won't be adding any new articles. I tried Firehow which pays about a penny for 3 views - uncheck. I'm writing for Break Studios which is a kick as they pay $8 per article and I'm finding I can write 4 articles an hour - not a bad clip. My goal next month is to try for $400 from Break alone. That's dependent though on how quickly they approve the articles. So, The arc bobs against a god it is.

Had all 6 dogs here for the last 2 days and got one great picture out of the mix but, let me tell ya, 6 dogs, no matter how wonderful they are, is a LOT. I'm confident now that I won't be that old lady dog hoarder - it's just too much work to clip 23 feet (Hops is missing 1), a total of 99 toenails! And, today is bath day which should take me about 3 hours. The ladies get bathed in the kitchen sink to save my aching back (yes, it gets sanitized after) and the boys get the hose. And, I haven't counted Mom into the mix - bath day is actually Saturday but I thought it would be a nice visual to include her here...

 Pictures will be forthcoming...

Monday, May 3, 2010

My favorite picture from sailing on Imagine

I love this picture, especially since it was taken in color but it's basically a black and white. I also love this one of Matee and Gizmo:
And, now that I've gotten on a theme of 'pairs,' here's another favorite picture:

Imagine a more perfect day...

Yesterday's weather on the Chesapeake was not conducive to a great day on Namaste (she being a bit too gentle for really rough seas and wind) so we went out with Alfonso and Pauline on the most fabulous 40' Beneteau sailboat on the bay that day - 'Imagine' is aptly named.

Wind gusts up to 25 knots or so just made this boat into a pure joyful sailing machine at a top speed of 7.80 knots. Magnificent is the only way to describe the way the boat dipped and swirled amongst the waves. It was like being in a limosine, complete with all the acoutraments a queen deserves. Breakfast was served, cocktails were furnished, snacks provided - does it really get any better than this? I mean, really. Well, actually, if a servant had slathered me with sunscreen, that would have been nice as I picked up a bit of a burn while sitting on the swim platform, dangling my feet in the water as we zipped past other boats. Evidently, and no one will admit this but there is a huge bonus to overtaking another sailboat. Sure, sailors will tell you it's about the journey - they're liars. It's about who can go through the journey at the fastest pace. And, those little waves you exchange with the skipper of a neighboring boat you've overtaken? I believe I detected a few one finger salutes instead of all five...

Regardless, the Imagine is everything one could want in a boat. With 2 staterooms, chocked full of gleaming mahogany furnishings, it's well suited to ocean sailing. John and I were drooling the entire day - we could barely pry John's hands from the wheel... Hopefully, John will be able to go on an oceangoing trip with Alfonso one day as a trip to the islands is in the making. Would be a grand way to spend 12 days.

Note: my new camera was hard at work yesterday - I'm not sure that I could have gotten this picture of this seagull  in mid poop with my sony dsc...A bit oogey, and a bit fascinating at the same time.

On another note, we're planning on taking Mom on a cruise out of Baltimore, we hope. Of course, as with everything else, it will be a decision we make the day before the boat is to sail but we have the biggest balcony cabin short of the penthouse, reserved for, what we hope is, 7 glorious days. We got the upscaled room as John, Gert and I plan to be riding the balcony a lot as too much excitement/crowds is not necessarily what any of us want. The cabin has a wet bar which I will stock well for cocktail hour. I figure some gambling, a bit of sun sounds about right for 7 days.

And, one final thing, the official name for the newest dog is Gizmo - thanks to niece Monya's great interpretation. Gizmo is doing fine and brings us much joy (if not JB, the cat). She's taken over JB's position in my lap during the evenings. Cats don't have much of a sense of humor.