Sharing With Cyclists……..

Let me very clear before I proceed with the post  – I am a big supporter of cycling. If my knees were not an issue, I would be a cyclist. If I had the resources, I would help fund biking and walking paths in every town and help bring all the “Rails to Trails” and other such endeavors to completion. With that said, I don’t bike; I walk at a fairly slow pace, but walk nonetheless. (In fact, I walk with trekking poles, a habit that generates teasing remarks about where the snow is since the poles and motion do look like cross-country skiing.) That brings me to my main topic of courteously sharing sidewalks and roads with cyclists. When I am walking, I don’t use earphones with an Ipod or any other device. I can hear another walker or runner coming up behind me, but not the quiet of a bicycle. When someone flashes by me with no sound, it’s startling and my irritation comes from the fact that around 70-80% of those on bicycles provide no warning. I appreciate those that do and always thank them. I understand that a cyclist coming up on me can clearly see me and clearly see that he/she has plenty of room to whip around. I can only assume that in their mind, it isn’t an issue, but seriously, a quick “coming up on your left/right” or using a bell doesn’t seem to be so much to ask.

Moving on to road courtesy. From my perspective, I respect cyclists and don’t crowd them, although I may not provide as much allowance as I think since I don’t see it from a cyclist’s perspective. However, it seems that stop signs and traffic signals should apply to cyclists as well as to motorists. Watching cyclists blast through stop signs and red lights, particulary when motor vehicles are approaching bothers me. Again, I’ve got it that a cyclist can see the clearance and scoot on out of the way, but how does being on a bicycle exempt one from obeying a stop sign or red light?

Men and Clutter……

Anyone who routinely follows the blog knows that I am married to one of the most wonderful men in the world. He, however, is male, and therefore the now famous Mars/Venus situations are sprinkled through our relationship. A few posts ago, I explained my homage to the recliner and I am genuinely fine with that. When we moved into the four bedroom house we now occupy a neighbor with two children, dogs, and a cat asked why only two of us needed four bedrooms. I said, “Two offices.” We have tried to share an office and that is not a good idea. I do often have a messy desk, but it is not my preferred style. My agreement with my husband has always been that he can spread out, scatter whatever, and I won’t touch it as long as I can close the door when we have company.

That, then brings me to the den which is quite open with no door to close, plus where one steps into when entering the house. Thus, the issue of clutter. Now, I am not talking about partially eaten food or a beer glass with dregs in it left sitting for days. That is an altogether different category that if my husband was prone to, we would probably never had married. No, I’m talking basic, non-dirty clutter – magazines, books, shoes, backpack, etc., types of things. I have come to the conclusion after many discussions – some a bit more sharp than others – that this is definitely a Mars/Venus topic. Men, or at least my husband example of the species, doesn’t acknowledge “clutter”. Therefore, if he doesn’t acknowledge it, then it doesn’t exist and ergo, why should it bother me? It is stuff rather than clutter. Simple stuff, all of which does have a place to go, but if one is going to need it again soon, why put it away and just have to get it back out?

This explanation by the way, also plays well into our entrepreneurial society and is why we have “Space Bags”, “Container Stores”, closet systems, and professional organizers. Those of us who wish to control clutter are in a constant search for convenient means to make putting stuff (clutter) away and yet still be easily accessible. Hmm, perhaps I have just provided an economic reason to have clutter. Ah, well!

Ducks Added to the Line-up……..


Duck going to join his other pals waddling in the neighborhood.

Duck going to join his other pals waddling in the neighborhood.

Actually, if I go by what some neighbors think, this should be in the Food and Drink Category. In the area where we live, there are a number of what anyone other than a realtor would call a “pond” – they understandably refer to them as “lakes”.  I erroneously believed they were a developer’s addition in order to claim waterfront property lots, however, I later found out that no, they serve a purpose from a flood control perspective. It was one of those “win-win” sort of things. Or, maybe I shoud say, “win-win-win” since they are also a reason that we have this wonderful water bird population. I’ll set aside the periodic alligator visitor for the moment. Now, I come around to the ducks. I happen to like ducks, as I believe most people do. The problem, though is the ducks have apparently figured out that these bodies of water are pretty well protected and therefore, they have no fear of predators (okay, maybe when the alligator visits, but that doesn’t happen often). Anyway, some of the neighborhoods have more problems than others where the ducks literally wander into open garages and definitely impede traffic as they very slowly cross the streets.

We have recently started seeing more ducks in our neighborhood, although at this time, they are confining themselves to merely waddling about the streets and into the yards. I don’t consider them to be a nuisance yet, but then again, I haven’t found duck poop on my driveway and sidewalk. So, we shall see how this all plays out over the next few months.

The Irony of Envy……

Serious content alert. I had a soulful conversation recently with a friend whose sister’s marriage is possibly unraveling. Like most people, she in turn, needed someone as a sounding board and I don’t mind. She doesn’t do blogs or Facebook, so there is little chance of her reading this post, not to mention that she lives quite distant from here. I don’t actually know her sister, but have heard the story for years of their financial successes – the impressive salaries, the executive home, the highend cars. No children because they wouldn’t fit in with their demanding jobs and lifestyle. (That’s a decision that a lot of people make.) Now, I don’t know if this is a correct perception or not, but my friend has always felt that the sister considered her to be lacking in ambition because she chose a different path. A professional, yet not in a job where you would ever get rich, a quite nice, although more modest home  based on the photos that I’ve seen, two children, a husband, also a professional, but no chance of making a big salary. They do okay, but no, definitely not in the same category as her sister. To the best of my knowledge there has not been overt envy, merely the understandable wistful comments at times.

As happens though, both of the couple’s companies downsized, the high-paying job no longer needed at all for the sister, a lower-paying position offered to the husband. I don’t know the details and wouldn’t want to, but apparently their income had gone mostly to fund the comfortable lifestyle and not into a savings plan to cover a sustained downturn. And for those who have never been through it, money troubles can wreak havoc on a marriage. The house, I gather, is pending or heading to foreclosure and there is a lot of anger spilling over into every conversation. Depression is apparently an issue as well and the worry in my friend’s voice can be clearly heard. I provided a shoulder and “uh,huh’d” a good bit. I will do that as often as my friend needs me to and I can only hope that everything eventually works out for everyone.

Australia Planning…..

Okay, as some of you know, this year is going to be both of our 60th birthdays and our 25th wedding anniversary. Therefore, it is the perfect time to do the major trip to Australia. Just like with most people traveling to the U.S.A., you can’t do everything you want to and I think we have narrowed our plans to do some very nice things, and yes, we will leave out others that we wish we could include. We will probably be gone for 19 days – that gives us about two weeks in Australia and accounts for three-four days of travel time. We will probably also go right after Thanksgiving to  get us back a few days before Christmas. Not surprisingly, we plan to stay home and have a quiet Christmas.

Okay, while we of course will dive, we intend to do a four-day dive boat trip rather than spend an entire week because of the other places we want to go and we will fly everywhere instead of trying to drive. It looks like we’ll go into Sydney, then up to Cairns for the dive boat, then Alice Springs and Ayers Rock, off to Melbourne and the wine country before we overnight again in Sydney and fly home. We’re excited about the idea and tossed around different options, but the truth is that we’ll have to start making reservations for certain parts of the trip soon and it was time to stop the, “Gee, we could..”, and settle on a plan.

I will keep you posted with our progress.

In Defense of the Recliner……

I am not a recliner person – I am a “curler” in that I like to curl up on a sofa or use a foot stool with an easy chair. I do not now, nor have ever really understood what it is about recliners that men tend to love – I merely know that it seems to be a common preference. These thoughts have come about because a friend is determined to get rid of her husband’s old recliner that yes, I do agree is not particularly in keeping with their present decor. Well, it’s also old enough to have some distinct shabbiness issues. However, I do recognize that there is a degree of “being broken in” that apparently applies to a recliner and therein lies a part of the discussion. How long it takes to properly “break in” a recliner is another question, but perhaps that could be a reasonable compromise with replacing it rather than simply getting rid of it.

In fact, when we refurnished our den, my agreement was for my husband to go all over the quite large furniture store and pick out the recliner that he wanted and I would furnish the room around that piece. It was easier from my perspective and our tastes are close enough that it was a safe approach to use. There were quite a few recliners though and it did take more than one trip for him to verify that yes, that was the right “fit”. Interestingly, I did pick out a recliner for my chair because it happened to be both comfortable and a great fabric. I added a coodinated foot stool though so that I rarely use the recline function. Okay, who has an opinion on this matter?

Fish Wrapped in Prosciutto….

This is one of the those simple dishes that presents well, tastes great, and doesn’t have too many steps to prepare. If you don’t have access to prosciutto, any thin sliced ham will work. I have found that the key to cooking food that has toothpicks inserted is to put them at an angle so they don’t interfere with the pan you are using. This recipe does call for a thicker cut of fish of 1/2 to 1 inch thick. I have never tried this with any variety except a firm white, although another type might work. If you have a skillet that can go in the oven, then it’s a one-dish meal. Otherwise, you’ll need a skillet and a baking dish or a foil lined cookie sheet.

Serves Two. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Ingredients: 2 fish fillets (Haddock, Mahi, Halibut, etc.); 1 Tbs stone ground mustard (or your preference); 2-4 slices prosciutto or other sliced ham; fresh pepper (or 1/2 tsp ground); 2 Tbs olive oil. Place the ham on plate or cutting board. Spread a thin coat of mustard on the fish fillet and a couple of grinds of fresh pepper or a light sprinkling of ground pepper. Place the mustard side down on the ham, coat the other side of the fish with mustard, season with pepper and completely wrap the fish with the ham. This is why you might need two slices per fillet – 1 slice might not wrap all the way around. You can leave the ends of the fillet exposed, but both sides have to be covered. Secure the ham to the fish with toothpicks.

Heat a skillet to medium, heat the olive oil 2-3 minutes. Place the wrapped fillets in the hot oil and cook for 3 minutes. Carefully turn the fillets and cook for another 3 minutes. You may need to hold your finger on the middle of the fillets when turning, although they should hold together inside the ham. If your skillet is oven-proof, place it into the oven for another 8-10 minutes (10 minutes if the fillets are 1 inch thick). If your skillet is not oven-proof, transfer the fillets to a foil lined cookie sheet or baking dish that has either a light coat of olive oil or that has been sprayed with a cooking spray for the same baking time.

The moisture from the ham and the mustard means you don’t need a sauce, but if you want one, I suggest you make a quick white wine and butter sauce in the same skillet that you used for the fish. If you baked the fish in the skillet, remove the fillets to a plate, cover them with foil, and put the skillet on a medium low heat. Add 1/4 cup white wine, scraping the bits of ham and fish into the wine. Add 1Tbs of butter, stir thoroughly and cook down to the consistency you like. If you are baking the fish separately, you can make the sauce as the fish bakes.

That’s it. Gently remove the toothpicks and you’re ready to plate. We usually serve this with a boxed rice dish, a vegetable, and a salad – none of which take much time. Oh, the fillets can be seasoned and wrapped 3-4 hours ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator covered in plastic wrap. If you do this, take them out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before cooking.


Something Extraordinary from Tragedy……

As I have mentioned in previous posts, there are so many charitable organizations and good causes that no one can support them all, and not even all those that you might wish to. However, when I run across a new one that I think some of the readers might be interested in, I do want to highlight them. Today, that happens to be an organization called KaBoom!, and no, it has nothing to do with weapons. In fact, it is exactly the opposite. I will quote directly from their web site:

“KaBOOM! is a national non-profit dedicated to saving play for America’s children.Our mission is to create great playspaces through the participation and leadership of communities. Ultimately, we envision a place to play within walking distance of every child in America.”

Please take a few minutes and go to their website to learn about this remarkable group. I suggest that you grab a tissue when you read their story, not so much because of the tragedy that inspired the idea, but also because of the heartwarming effect that their efforts are having. In a nutshell, KaBoom! has shown more than 14,000 times since 1995 that you can get a group together in a community and have a wonderful playground built in three days. That’s right – three days. They have a well-organized plan that is similar to the “Blitz Builds” of Habitat for Humanity and they have spread across the nation to help communities in their vision to bring playgrounds to neighborhoods that need them.

In two weeks time, Homestead will be added to the list of communities that have benefitted from a playground build. I am looking forward to seeing how it unfolds.

Social Media Forays….

Okay, let us refer to me as technologically challenged when it comes to most electronic things and still puzzled when it comes to Social Media. My smart phone has all sorts of functions that I haven’t the faintest idea of how to use and I don’t have a great many apps downloaded. To say that it took me far longer than it should have to get into E-books and start a blog is an understatement. You have probably already noted that my blog is pretty basic, but that isn’t the precise point here.

Kelly Samardak, of Short Stack Photogrpahy, is also a social media guru and she has been trying to teach me, as she somewhat drags me into the different venues. It was Tweeting, and now a fan page for Facebook at that I will try not to mix up with my regular FB page. (Not that I can do all the cool things with that either.) Oh yes, and Pinterest is in there somewhere. Anyway, for those out there who can whiz around on these platforms, zipping through cyberspace, and navigating through all the different aspects – I admire your skill. For those of us who are cautiously feeling our way, we will attempt to stay in the proverbial righthand lane, so as to not impede your progress, and if there are “protocol blunders”, please accept an upfront apology.

Some Thoughts on Hospice…..

Serious content alert. I know, I usually go for light-hearted or at least poignant, but a Tweet about a hospice volunteer caught my attention the other day. That brought to mind doing a post for those who might not be familiar with hospice. Perhaps you will never be in a position to need that service, but it is good to know about it. I was only vaguely familiar with hospice when I was with my former mother-in-law during the last months of her life. Like many people I spoke with later, I associated hospice with cancer patients. That is correct, but the actual criteria for hospice care is that an individual be declared by a physician to be terminal, and that can be any medical condition. Although the “terminal” aspect is considered to be six months or less, that is not a hard-and-fast definition, and some patients do actually recover. Despite the fact that my former mother-in-law was only under hospice care for a week, I learned a great deal and devoted a chapter of Your Room at the End: Thoughts About Aging We’d Rather Avoid to explaining more about this approach to end-of-life care.

The essentials though are that there is no hospice with a capital “H”, per se. Each Hospice group is organized independently, adhering to the same principals and abiding by the local state rules for medical care. Some hospices are associated with religious groups and others are not. Some offer a paid service of nurses and nurses assistants for on-site 24-hour care, but not all do. Three important things to know about hospice are that: (1) the individual must have made the decision to cease medical solutions other than for pain management and comfort. In other words, if an individual continues to take treatment or medication that is intended to battle a disease/condition, the individual is not eligible for hospice. I know, it runs contrary to what we usually do and that is why the decision to enter hospice can be so difficult – sometimes more so for the loved ones that for the individual. (2) An individual can still be in a hospital or other care facility because there may not be a suitable “home” to go to, or the individual might require something like artificial feeding. The artifical feeding is for comfort, not to combat the underlying disease/condition. In this case,  the hospice “team” takes over certain functions while the hospital/facilty staff continues with others. (3) Entering hospice care does not mean someone is “giving up”. What it means is that an individual acknowledges that he/she is in a terminal state and no longer wishes to undergo invasive procedures and may prefer to be at home for their final months, weeks, or days. It is a time for family and friends to make their farewells.

This synopsis about hospice is greatly simplified and if you have aging parents, other relatives, or friends, I urge you to read more about hopsice. No, it isn’t a pleasant subject, yet I will tell you from experience that it can a wonderful source of support at what will be a very emotional time.