Monday, September 30, 2013

Vacation & Sipping Wine

I am back from a brief vacation. I spent a few days with my Aunts in Florida. My immediate family is quite small since my parents have passed on; including my three kids, the family numbers only nine members. Of course if you throw in the pets we sound a bit more impressive at nearly twenty. So, we try to keep in touch.

I have been exhausted from all the hostile shenanigans at work and really just wanted a good sleep. Of course, sufficient quantities of food & drink I hadn't had to prepare myself were also vacation requirements. I find it so refreshing to get out of your usual element and travel. Florida is only a two and a half hour flight, but the sense of freedom from simply being away from home is what I find truly exhilarating. Weather is irrelevant, unless extreme and for the most part I am amused by simple sightseeing as well as the foodie experience.

I had a terrific time learning about white wines this trip. I admit I am partial to Merlots, but different environments are meant to stretch your palate. I sampled several sparkling Spanish Cavas which were bright, dry delights. Another Spanish white I enjoyed was a 2010 Sabrego, it had a faintly fresh green apple sense but overall was a  lovely, solid complement to the lump crab cakes I was savoring. I also sipped a couple of Pinot Grigios that were not too heavily flavored with oak paired with some lovely sauteed shrimp. Overall, my brief immersion in white wines was quite enjoyable and I came away with a greater appreciation of their diversity.

Rainwater pouring out downspout
 My most outrageous wine sampling was the Dutch ChocoVin with Merlot for dessert one night. I had never even remotely considered drinking a chocolate wine, but when in Rome... Well, the first half glass is very sweet & chocolatey, but you know, once the 13%  alcohol hits, it doesn't taste bad at all! Best to limit yourself to one glass though, because it could be a dangerous drink with a dollop of whipped cream.

So vacation was great! During the moments I wasn't eating or drinking I was restfully (knitting in hand) staring out the window contemplating the relaxation effect of rain on the nearby lake. The weather in Florida was odd, it rained constantly for at least three days. An impressive seven inch accumulation of water and some flooding. I find it amazing with serious drought conditions in the Midwest, there seems to be an abundance of this rainy resource falling everywhere else...

Saturday, September 21, 2013


I am heading out of town for a well needed rest. I plan to be back next weekend with some new photos. Emma beagle is already stressing over the sight of my suitcase... She and Wendy will be in good hands with the kids for a few days, while I play tourist. Bon Voyage!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Boil order

This has been such an odd weekend... More time for contemplation than I probably needed, actually change that to wanted. Sometimes I think society has spiraled off without me and I am left puzzled wondering when I dropped out. Anyway, the ground is still under my feet and reassuringly solid, so I keep plodding along living out my day. I was enjoying a bit of knitting companionship at the yarn shop when I heard there was a "boil order" for all tap water. If I had had my cell phone turned on I would have received the city voice mail notification and hour earlier, but then you know I am not particularly keen on being constantly connected.

 My local community is getting to experience a generalized lifestyle "inconvenience." A major water-main has broken between Saint Louis & Saint Charles and since the Missouri River runs between our cities, possible contamination is a concern. You might remember the distinct visual ick factor when we had flooding this past April and let me say the smell, along with the black gunk left behind were truly disgusting. I think drinking river water would definitely imperil your health.

The emergency order requires a 3 minute boil for drinking water, no dish washing (unless you want to do them twice) as well as restrictions on lawn watering and indiscriminate usage. The extremely hot and dry month of August has plunged the Midwest into serious drought conditions. The drought is why Saint Charles needed water from Saint Louis in the first place, our wells are low.

Quarry Pond at Elephant Rocks State Park, MO. Deep water/dry land.
Isn't it amazing how we can take such a valuable resource for granted? Or be irritated because of the inconvenience of boiling water. It is obvious many of my fellow Saint Charlesians don't even have bottled water at their homes since the grocery shelves have been completely emptied.Yet in many places around the world, water doesn't flow freely from a tap, it must be found, transported and purified before it can be consumed. At a hauling weight of about eight pounds per gallon, I am thrilled my tap still supplies water, the city engineers could have just as easily shut it off.

It is clear that unpredictable weather and resource limitations may be a significant factor to impact our lifestyles in the future. The tragic flooding in Colorado this weekend, the horrific effects of Hurricane Sandy last year on the East Coast and now, the potential Dust Bowl conditions recurring in the Midwest certainly give us examples of weather/environmental disasters, along with their effects on populations. In some situations our lack of preparation for disaster may be more devastating than the event itself.

We have some emergency supplies in case of a tornado put aside in the basement, but what if water or electricity was out for a week?  I am not a survivalist, just commonsense prepared for the short-term but this minor situation has really made me think about the impact a long-term utilities shut down would create.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Technical difficulties

Hello again! I have been offline for about a week because my computer's software crashed. Initially, I thought we could do some home repair but nope, my five year old laptop needed professional help. So Tony, at my local computer shop bailed me out and about 26 hours later, I have a completely wiped machine with a new operating system.

Five whole days without the internet... You know that gives you time to think. I don't have TV, so the internet is my news and entertainment, but I hung in there reading two library books and listening to NPR. No, I did not start to get jittery missing Pinterest, I finished that crochet shawl for my daughter. The things that worried me most were bills and did my paycheck post correctly. You see I do all my regular bills electronically and use direct deposit. All is well now, but it is amazing how little paper documentation is moving within modern society. I can honestly say the temporary loss of my laptop was an eye opening experience.
Wendy & Emma HATE it when I am on the box!

So now that I am gratefully back on the interwebs, I have learned several lessons from this technical difficulty:  back up your files more than once a year on your handy external hard drive, limit your bookmarks to the few you actually look at frequently, dump your temporary files regularly to limit sneaky viruses and do the updates. I think I've got it.... now.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Autumn creeps in

I was outside early the other morning, scooping a dead vole out of the fish pond, when I heard a honking flock of geese fly over the house headed in a southerly direction. Initially, I had to look up to actually know it was geese I had heard; I was surprised then excited, it has been a long, hot summer. We've had a few cooler nights, down into the low 60's (around 17C) where happily, I turned off the air conditioning using the attic fan to draw the cooler outside air into the house. Midwest weather is such a powerful entity, always demanding and requiring some sort of human compensation to its random effects. Soon the peaceful glories of autumn will be upon us, when the weather is a gentler beast.

Acorns, falling from a neighbor's huge pair of oak trees, onto the metal roof of his porch make almost a gunshot report from their impact, signaling the season of harvest is here. My apple tree is suddenly dropping fruit even when I pick daily. Leaves are beginning to litter the yard as well, although I think it is more from heat and our current drought-like conditions... Yet, these little signs excite me. Autumn is my favorite season as much for the chill as the resurgence of appreciation for comforting warmth. Light knitwear will soon be required and steaming mugs of hot tea will be necessary for my porch retreats. A season where a riot of color has little to do with the gardener but becomes more about the environment around us.

I usually end up with garden fatigue about this time every year and look forward to allowing my perennials to peter out and sink back into the soil. The sturdy autumn plants like my pink flowering stonecrop (sedum spectabile) need little attention, yet do a marvelous job attracting honeybees. The hardy zinnias and marigolds, as well as the late blooming asters will add plenty of color, while the perennial giants of my gardens fade. The lavender bushes have re-bloomed, along with the Knockout roses so there is no visual dulling of color yet.

The tomato plants are still actively fruiting and I harvest a dozen warm & tasty fruits every other day. They reinforce my current garden determination of myself that I am not an agriculturalist as much as I am a hunter/gatherer. I lack the interest and tenacity to be a true farmer. I rather enjoy the wonder of finding a delightful snack, but I do not excel at maintenance. Yep, I am all about reward and every year I garden I learn more valuable nuggets about myself. Like, I am more ready in the Fall to give up the garden effort, than I was excited in the Spring to start it. This year I also learned I need to group gardens, hummingbird feeders and the goldfinch thistle seed socks together in one area, always in view from the porch, so they will be tended regularly. Gardens out of my line of sight need to be hardy, cuz I ain't there to baby them through. I guess that makes me somewhat of an amnesic or even lazy gardener but life is distracting and he who yells loudest... You know what I mean.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Enjoy the read

Leaving home was the start of it; just driving off to college. All my worldly possessions had been loaded into the trunk and backseat of my car.  I waved goodbye to my old life. The open road ahead was a black tarmac to an infinite horizon.  This was a simple road trip; one week of no schedules or demands just eating when I was hungry and stopping when I was tired. The first couple of days I drove with intent, contemplating my future and marveling at my boldness. I actually thought I knew where I was going, but the music of the road, a potent Calypso song, was quietly wooing me towards another path.  My radio companion echoed harmonies of, “we shall be free..., and take to the highway....,” to linger in my ears.  For hours, the wind rushed by my open window bringing the scent of wildness to my nose.  I was confidently oblivious to my destiny. 

A rest stop, decked out in white cinder block was my turning point, besides; I was thirsty.  I swung the car into a spot next to a rusted blue pickup truck loaded with firewood. Minutes later, soda in hand, I sat on a bench and watching the dog in the pickup, its paws on the dash, excitedly lick the windshield. The pickup guy walked past me letting “happy dog” out of the cab. Dumping a half bottle of water into a metal bowl he sat with the dog at a nearby picnic table. I pitched my soda and started a quick walk around the picnic grounds to get a little exercise before another few hours behind the wheel. On my last turn to the car, the guy’s dog comes running up with a tennis ball, shoving his wet nose into my hand.

Pickup guy is laughing and calls, “Rusty, come over here! She don’t want to play.” 

I’m a good sport and give the ball a toss. Rusty takes off to retrieve. Pickup guy is apologizing handing me a paper towel to wipe the dog spit off my hand.

“Thanks, you sure have a happy dog...” I said smiling at Rusty’s owner.

“Yeah, he’s a happy one, always excited about something. I see you’re traveling but if you have time, you should come into town for the county fair. There’s good food, good folk and an evening bonfire.” Sam said.

I had the time and a little side trip would be nice. I followed his truck into a rustic town strewn with banners, fresh produce stands, pie and craft booths. Sam dumped the firewood on the town green and offered to show me around. He was by far the most popular man I have ever accompanied and folks just included me. I bought a beaded skirt and some silver earrings, changing at the town hall ladies’ room. I felt like I was putting on a new perspective; I just sort of fell into a bohemian lifestyle...