Friday, February 25, 2011

New York, New York...What a Crazy Time

Oldest son and family flew into the Big Apple over President’s Day weekend. They stayed north of the city close to relatives (the other side of the family). We arranged to meet at the Museum of Natural History Saturday morning. Grandson wanted to see the dinosaurs. Hub and I were on Long Island cat-sitting while my Mom went to Puerto Rico.
We took the train into Manhattan and walked 2 ½ miles to the museum. It was cold, but sunny and clear. We entered the museum lobby and were assaulted by huge numbers of people milling around, including lots and lots of kids. We spotted my daughter-in-law’s parents. Then the rest of the group arrived, seventeen in all. There was my son’s family of five, daughter-in-law’s parents, her brother’s family of three, hub and me, and the out-of-own friends’ family of five. We wandered around the dinosaur exhibits and the Ocean area where the big blue whale hung from the ceiling.
Then it was lunch time. Collecting and keeping together a group of seventeen, seven of them children under seven, was an adventure. Finding a reasonably priced place for lunch for all of us was a challenge. We found a small restaurant on the higher end of sensibly priced, but they could seat all of us. After lunch the kids decided to spend the rest of the afternoon at their hotel’s indoor pool.
The group of four remaining – the older generation - spent the rest of the afternoon walking through Central Park and Madison Avenue, meandering in and out of shops. I needed a new coat and someone mentioned Bloomingdales was having great sales. By the time we got to the store the other couple was exhausted and left for home. We looked around the throngs and the reaction was – what recession? The coat department was chaotic. I tried on several, but nothing was available in my size. Hub could not get over how many size 4, 6, and 8 coats were left and how few in double digit sizes.
We headed back to Penn Station, stopping for dinner at a pub. We discussed getting tickets for a show. We walked past the discount tkts booth, looked at each other and shook our heads. We were too tired. It did not make sense to spend a lot of money and barely be able to keep our eyes open through the show. We slowly continued walking. Very, very slowly – my feet were rejecting me.
We stopped at one more store. We were told there were no winter coats. Spring clothes were showcased everywhere. Then the main man said – wait a minute – disappeared and came back a few minutes later with two coats; the same one in two sizes. While he was gone I looked at hub and rolled my eyes. This was a pricey place; definitely not within my usual shopping price and territory.  
I could not believe it. The coat fit perfectly and was exactly what I wanted. I bought it. It was 60% off, expensive but doable. The coat should last at least twenty years. My last good coat wore out after fifteen years of serious use.
Monday afternoon we met the kids for lunch. After one party went to the wrong restaurant, we rendezvoused and enjoyed a chaotic lunch. Hub and I followed the kids to the airport. We were going to take one of the travelling car seats and keep it to use when the kids come this summer.
There was a lot of traffic and it was getting late. Son drove to the departure terminal, unloaded kids and luggage and everyone dashed into the terminal. We grabbed the keys to the rental car, returned it, and were on our way to another airport. Hub was leaving on a business trip. I dropped him off at airport number two and drove home.
It started to snow. I ran into a local grocery, grabbed a few essentials and finally collapsed at home.
Mom was scheduled to come in 12:30 a.m. that night. My sister picked her up at airport number three. The plane was two hours late. They did not get home until 4:00 a.m.
Everyone’s travels are over, at least for now. Cats are fine, Puerto Rico was relaxing, and the out of town crew got home safely. The hectic New York scene was left far behind. Hub survived two redeye plane trips back to back. It was a whirlwind of family and fun, entertaining and exhausting. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Goobye Winter Tomato

I like to think I was always somewhat health conscious. Never fanatical, I am intellectually informed about appropriate eating habits.  I breastfed both babies and made my own baby food. I still remember the little food grinder I used. It disappeared over the years.
I also am a foodaholic. I love food. I enjoy eating, cooking, reading about food, thinking about food. Maybe it is my cultural background, I have no idea. My Mom is not a gourmet cook, and I don’t think she ever really enjoyed cooking dinners. She preferred the school library and the kids she taught.
Much of my social life revolves around food. I meet friends for lunch and we go out with other couples for dinner. My hub and I both work from home. Too often we walk around the corner to one of the restaurants near our house for lunch. I try to eat nutritiously and diet-consciously, but I am weak. Somewhere along the line the American practice of super-sized portions became the norm.
Living for many years in a community surrounded by small farmers and a wonderful farmers market, I came to appreciate and take for granted wonderful, fresh local produce. It was part of the yearly routine that June brought local strawberries and asparagus. There is nothing like local corn picked the same day you eat it.
One of the first things we did when we relocated was to join a CSA, a Community Supported Agricultural group. We get local fresh organic produce delivered to our door weekly from May through mid-December. There is also a farmers market in town during the months of June, July, and August.
I am reading Barbara Kingsolver's book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle about her family’s decision to spend one year eating only foods they grew themselves or that were locally produced. The beginning of the book is the vegetable version of The Omnivore's Dilemma or Super Size Me, portraying the industrialization of the vegetable food industry.
And that brings me to my favorite vegetable, the tomato. I can eat them every day. Except every time I buy one in winter I am disappointed. They are tasteless and often hard as a rock. Today we had lunch at a wonderful Greek restaurant. The food was fabulous. The salad was great – except for the quarter of a  tomato. It had a sick red color. Trying to cut it was like spearing something with a hard core. I gave up. I am giving up out of season tomatoes for good.
As I get older my body is slowly turning to mush. I am trying to fight it, to resist, but my American cultural upbringing is difficult to defy. More fresh, seasonal, tasty veggies…less processed food…less food consumed …more exercise…less sedentary activity…forward to a healthier me! It is difficult to adopt new ways of doing things –especially something you have done your entire life, like eating – after so many, many years. But I am trying.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Spring IS Right Around the Corner! (tax season too)

by A. A. Milne
She wore her yellow sun-bonnet,
She wore her greenest gown;
She turned to the south wind
And curtsied up and down.
She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
“Winter is dead.”

Last week I wrote that winter was starting to make me crazy. The spirits heard me. The skies became bluer, the air warmer, the wind died down, and we had ONE DAY of spring-is-in-the-air. It was a teaser, but it was reassurance enough. It won’t be long now…
Yesterday was the beautiful day. Early afternoon I put on a sweatshirt, pulled the hoodie over my ears and hair, put on my jacket, zipped up and walked outside. I could not believe it. I was definitely overdressed! For the first time in months I experienced the warmth of the sun on my face. What a wonderful feeling. Of course I already see myself dying in the hot August sun, not wanting to venture out of the air conditioning, but…
I opened the garage door and foraged. I found my gardening gloves. I unearthed the clippers. I came across a large garbage bag. I spent a few minutes trimming the rosebush next to the front door. I collected leaves still hanging around the front and side of the house. Then I dumped the filled bag into our composter. This is our first try at composting, so I am eager but unsure what to expect. I realize it is not warm enough for anything to happen. But the composter will be full and ready to go as soon as the weather cooperates.
I went back into the garage. Now I have to admit I still have not unpacked all of the boxes from our move back in May. It is time to retool, re-energize and dive back in. I found one box marked office supplies and brought it into the house. One box at a time avoids too much unproductive chaos.
It is cold and windy again today, but it is sunny and gorgeous.
The unpacked box and the taxes beckon. We started the painful process of doing our taxes this past weekend. We are TurboTax users and survivors. If our marriage survives sorting, organizing, preparing, and completing our taxes, we are OK.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Baby it's Cold Outside...Enough is Enough!

We cannot control the weather. Nature always wins. It is useless, pointless and just plain whining to grumble. But I cannot help it. I want to go outside and walk around for a few minutes without my nose turning purple. I want to be able to run out and get the mail or the newspaper without throwing on watertight shoes and a coat. I want to dash out to exercise class without tossing a whole layer of clothing over my outfit because the work out material is too cold, even with a coat on. I would like to go outside and trim the rose bushes.
I am weary of winter and bitter cold, wet weather. I am tired of monitoring the gas and electric so we do not have to take a second mortgage to pay the heating bills. I am tired of packing a small suitcase with one sweater and having no room for anything else. I am just drained.
I can stay up late during the summer and not feel tired at all. Now it gets dark about 5:30 p.m. and I want to curl up and watch TV or go to bed. There does not seem to be energy for much else. The mind is willing but the body does not get the message. It is lethargic. Inert. Lazy. Immovable.
A few weeks of winter remain. President’s weekend is notorious for some of the worst storms of the season. Then March arrives. March storms come swooping in, drop their heavy, wet snow, and vanish. The sun comes out. The air and the earth warm up. The snow disappears.
Spring will be here, hopefully sooner rather than later. It never disappoints. The days stretch out, green things start emerging from the soil, and people appear on the streets again. The utility bills go way, way down. The windows open. Even the food changes. I miss fresh tomatoes and lots of salads. Imported, store bought so-called fresh foodstuffs lack the wonderful taste of local, fresh produce.
It is almost time for nature, and people, to emerge from hibernation. I cannot wait.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Saga of Moving Mom Part II - The Long-Awaited Day Finally Arrives

We decided that the night before moving day my spouse (henceforth called hub for short) and I would stay at the new apartment. We wanted to be around when the carpet installers arrived around dawn Friday morning. The painters called to inform us they would be done by 10:00 p.m. Thursday night. Late that night we ventured out into the cold, snowy night and drove over to Mom’s new apartment.
Did I mention the cats? The carpet installation was not the only reason we slept at the apartment Thursday night. My Mom was worried about the two cats. We took one of them with us. Belle spent Friday locked in the bathroom as carpet men, movers, the cable guy, and other random people wandered in and out.
We set the alarm for 6:00 a.m. We wanted to be sure one of us would be in the lobby when the truck arrived. We threw sheets and blankets on the floor in the small bedroom and went to sleep. Or tried to. It was not the most comfortable of floors and there were no curtains on the window. Street lights and car lights kept the room in twilight all night.
The alarm rudely woke us the following morning. We staggered up, dressed, and hub went downstairs to await the start of the big day. We should have realized that, in a seniors building, things get started early. The place was already humming with activity. People were out getting their newspapers, walking through the halls - we really don’t know what they were doing. But quite a few people were out and about.
Before we knew it the action began. The carpet truck arrived at 6:40 a.m. Events progressed quickly. The building was abuzz. Rules state that no work is supposed to begin before 8:00 a.m. We had received special dispensation to start earlier because of the delays due to the bad weather. But some residents were not in the mood to be forgiving or understanding. All they knew was that we were breaking the rules. The super got an earful that day. I feel sorry for him. He is a nice guy, quite patient with the old folks. He did all he could to ensure we could move in on Friday.
The carpet installers worked fast and efficiently. They tore up the old carpet and padding, fixed a couple of floorboards, and installed new padding and carpet. They obviously were experienced and knew what they were doing. All went well.
Meanwhile I got started cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms. I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the tile and grout floors in all three rooms. I don’t do that in my own house.  By the end of a very long day of cleaning, unpacking, washing dishes and glassware, I was exhausted. And sore.
The carpet was installed and the apartment was peaceful and quiet by about 11:00 a.m. Hub had made a quick trip to Starbucks for coffee and breakfast sandwiches. We ate and he drove over to the house to supervise the movers.
The movers were supposed to arrive between 8:30 and 9:00 a.m. They called and said they were going to be late. It was after 11:00 a.m. when the truck finally pulled up to the house. Everyone was starting to get nervous. All work must be complete and workers out of the apartment building by 5:00 p.m.
Mom marveled at how carefully and expertly the three men emptied the house. In about two hours they were on their way to the apartment. Mom and sister drove over to the new place. Hub stayed behind to wait for the last shift of workers, the junkmen. They would remove whatever remained in the house, basement, attic and garage, and broom sweep the entire house.
I was still cleaning up a storm and hungry. I finally decided to walk down to the lobby and ask around to see if there was some place close by to get a sandwich. Just as I got downstairs the phone call came that the movers were on their way. I alerted the super, and the second round of activity officially got underway.
My sister dropped Mom and cat No. 2 at the apartment and drove off in search of lunch. The movers came and went. Everything went smoothly. Unbelievably (I have moved before and this never happened) nothing was broken in transit. The only casualty occurred when I was unwrapping newspaper and a glass fell on the floor. I was more careful after that.
Then the cable guy showed up. He was in the building a long time. The 5:00 p.m. deadline for workers to evacuate came and went, but he was one unobtrusive guy not making noise. My Mom did not have cable TV, internet, or phone that day. Or the next. She finally got hooked up yesterday, six days after moving in.
Meanwhile hub spent the rest of the afternoon waiting for the junk man. We received one call saying he was running late; he would arrive between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m. About 4:00 p.m. we called and left a message. He got back to us immediately. He was stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway, was on his way, and was definitely coming. Two junk trucks and four men finally arrived close to 5:00 p.m. One truck was full from an earlier job, but the extra manpower was necessary. It was getting cold, dark, and icy. If we did not vacate the house completely on Friday, Mom would be charged $200 a day rent.
The junk guys worked hard and completed the job quickly. There was a lot more stuff than Mom had shown the guy on the walk-through weeks before. There was too much stuff for one truck. Items were left in the driveway and the head junk man would return later with a pick-up truck. Hub finally left, detouring on the way back to the apartment to buy dinner. He locked the door to the house and as he got into the car noticed a light had been left on in one of the bedrooms.
Later that night hub and sister went back to the house to turn off the light, make sure all the stuff had been removed from the driveway, and take one last walk through the house. They were astonished. The rooms looked bigger than anyone remembered, and close to spotless. The junk men had done an amazing job sweeping up and removing all debris. Even the garage was clean.
And so the saga comes to an end. Friday evening we sat around the table and shared a bottle of wine and the chicken and vegetables hub had bought at a carry out grocery. We were all tired, hungry, worn out, but glad we had finally arrived at this time and place.
Mom has been in the apartment a week. It will probably take some time before it really feels like home. She was in her house since 1952.  She is slowly resuming her pre-move activities and settling back into her life.