Thursday, June 30, 2016

Oven 101

Who would think I required instructions for an oven? After all, I have been cooking forever, or so it seems.

But apparently a lesson on our new kitchen range proved necessary.

Backtracking…we purchased a new range about a month ago. Nowadays I rarely use a traditional oven. My microwave includes a convection bake and roast feature, and I have become a fan of the convection cooking process. Also the microwave is smaller than the oven. We are a two person household and do not need a huge oven.

Ovens are useful when others join the party. A couple of weeks ago I cooked dinner for 10 people. Nothing fancy, roast chicken.

I had never used my new oven, but was unconcerned. I have owned and operated ovens throughout my adult life. They are not difficult, complex machines. Controls are well marked and understandable.

I checked the chicken while cooking, gradually growing anxious. The birds barely cooked, stubbornly remaining tough when pierced and refusing to turn golden brown…

Dinnertime rolled around and passed, everyone hungry, especially the kids. Bedtime neared…

We ate a meal course-by-course, salad, bread, then veggies. Increasing the oven temperature helped, but obviously my shiny new appliance was flawed.

Eventually enough chicken baked for dinner.

The following day hub called the store where we purchased the oven and set a date for the repairman to come and check out our defective appliance.

The repairman drove up about 3:00 p.m. I guess working folk figure retirees have nothing better to do all day than wait for repair people. But on the positive side he did show up. Trusty repairman and hub huddled around the range.

A few minutes later hub calls me in for a consultation.

The repair guy says something like, “This temperature problem has been an issue with these hi-tech ovens. You are not the first to complain. The oven temperature can vary about 30 degrees above or below the set temperature. I reset it for a deviation of 20 high to compensate. But now you can plan your cooking. All this information is detailed on page eight in the manual. If this is not enough, you can modify the setting to 30 degrees; it requires some experimentation.” 

What?

I never read page eight of the manual. I never read pages one through seven, or any page after eight either.

I thought I knew how to use an oven.

Silly me. The latest technology overtook my limited knowledge, making oven information stored in my brain inadequate, unworthy of my new appliance.

My chickens took forever to bake because the temperature remained 30 degrees lower than the temperature set and the temperature indicated on the control panel. I told my family this was a very forgettable meal, but they corrected me. It will be a very memorable meal, they informed me, just not in the way I might like.

I flunked my first cooking assignment with my new appliance. My next assignment will be a repeat performance, hopefully more successful.

The problem: I have no plans in the near future to cook for 10 people. What would I do with all the extra food?

I may have to settle for cooking for two, or maybe four or five, inviting friends or freezing leftovers.

I do not want to flunk Oven 101 a second time. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Joy of Doing Almost Nothing

It might be decadent to admit, but I spent an entire day doing almost nothing. Following two weeks of family interaction, travel, sun fun, a bit of intellectual brain activity, my six decades plus body alerted me – ENOUGH!

Kids and a mud pit - an irresistible combination 
 Arriving home from a Road Scholar Intergenerational program with our grandson, the three of us – me, hub, and Hayden - fell onto comfy chairs and couches, barely moving. The twelve-year-old retained enough energy to adeptly maneuver fingers on his electronic device. Hub managed to turn the TV on and channel surf. I started the first of copious loads of laundry. Hayden’s filthy, mud-spattered, smelly clothes, the product of days trekking through the salt marsh, wetlands, and the beach, required a thorough cleaning. Hub and my clothes were almost as dirty.

Foul-smelling laundry bags...
Slowly shuffling to the laundry room, transferring clothes from foul-smelling laundry bags to the washer, then the dryer, out of the dryer, and repeat, the activity sucked whatever energy remained in my body. Following three loads I gave up and sank into bed.

The following day became my day of doing almost nothing. More laundry, catching up on the news and emails, preparing and eating simple meals – only two, a late breakfast of bagels, and dinner - grilled chicken and our first delicious seasonal asparagus.

I felt drained. My body craved idleness and sleep. It was as if all the energy this sixty-something body could muster was used up over the past couple of weeks.

It was time to recharge.

I know I am lucky to be able to do nothing for a day. No pressure to return to an office or anywhere else at a specific time. Whatever must be done could wait a day.

Giving in to the exhaustion proved a worthwhile endeavor. I woke up the following morning wide-awake and eager to start the day.

Hungry, I looked forward to cooking breakfast.

We met friends for lunch, riding bikes the two miles to the restaurant and a few more miles after lunch, tired when returning home but energized.

I spent an hour and a half in the garden, catching up following two weeks of benign neglect.

Now I am ready for a busy week beginning with a 7:00 a.m. zumba class tomorrow morning.

And I do not feel any guilt for taking a day off, doing almost nothing, enjoying every minute of it.

The joy of doing almost nothing. I will have to do it again some time… 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Two Weeks of Kid-Centered Summer Fun

It began with two granddaughters, swelled to what looked like a family reunion, 
And dwindled to hub, me, and our grandson.
We continue our kid-centered activity until the weekend, then collapse from exhaustion.

A quick look at family fun in the sun...
 
We visited the Zoo, always a kid favorite.
We rented bikes and rode to the library, along the boardwalk, and to our favorite bagel store.
 
Of course there was lots of beach time. Luckily the weather cooperated most days.
 
The newest member of our clan  visited along with her family, and cousins connected.
 
More family descended, and the entire family enjoyed dessert at our favorite ice cream place.
 
 
Three of us left the rest of the family Sunday morning and
Headed to The Assateague/Chincoteague area on the eastern shore of Virginia.
Hub, me, and Hayden are participating in a Road Scholar Intergenerational program.
Theme: Marine Science
There is beach time...
 
Boat time, testing water and trawling for marine life.
 
 
Marsh and wetlands walks, here checking for critters caught.
 
Even scientists need an ice cream fix.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Happy Father's Day, Dad


The following post first appeared June 19, 2011. 
I am re-posting in honor of Father's Day.
Dad’s birthday was June 14th, and Father’s Day is Sunday. He is not around anymore to celebrate with us, but his spirit is. He died a few years ago, in his 80s, and I believe he enjoyed his life – at least most of it. 
Dad’s father died when he was a toddler, and his Mom raised him and his sister. His Mom (my grandmother) never remarried. He formed a close-knit group of buddies in elementary school that remained friends throughout their lives. He grew up poor. Although so many suffered during the Depression, Dad knew he was worse off than his friends, but he never complained. He had a great disposition, looking at the positive side of things and shrugging off the problems. 
He started college but left to serve in World War II. He was a radioman in Europe and wounded. After the war he returned to New York City, went to work, married Mom, had two daughters, and completed college during the 1950s by attending City College night classes. Advertising his profession, he worked for several agencies, including for a short time his own.
Mom and Dad experienced money problems during the 1960s as inflation rampaged, but after my sister and I left the nest and graduated from college, they traveled, participated in Elderhostel programs, and took the grandchildren on trips. Between trips, volunteer activities and social events they fit us in and saw us once in a while.
Eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the last few years were difficult, especially for Mom. But it was COPD that got Dad in the end. His heart and lungs wore out, but it was a blessing compared to suffering the ravages of what Alzheimer’s does to its victims at the end.
Almost up to the very end Dad played blackjack; the few seconds it took to play was enough time for him to complete a hand, often successfully. But he frequently did not remember where he was. One time he went to the casino hotel desk and said he could not remember his room number. He was not staying at the hotel. 

Another time he wandered off and got lost in the parking garage (which a lot of us do occasionally, including me). He called us on the cell phone. We told him to hand the phone to anyone near him wearing a uniform. He found a security guard and we told the guard not to let Dad get away. 

Then there was the time – pre-9-11 – he drove a rental car through a metal fence and onto the runway at West Palm Beach Airport. He kept driving until he found the way out.
Dad was in and out of the hospital with COPD and related ailments for years. He and Mom were  celebrating their 50th anniversary and taking the whole family to Hawaii - except Dad needed gall bladder surgery and the doctor said there was no way he could go. He insisted the rest of us (except Mom) go. The kids and grandkids had a great time, and anytime on the island cruise passengers were asked, “Who is celebrating an anniversary?” we all yelled: "We are! We are!"

One year Mom threw him Dad a birthday bash, but he was in the hospital and the hospital would not release him. I think it was his 83rd birthday. Hub and Mom went to the hospital, checked him out and brought him home. (We figured, what was the worst that could happen?) He loved the celebration with all his friends and family. 

Happy Father's Day, Dad. We love you.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Best of Boomers Plunge into Summer While the Dog Has His Day

Summer craziness began at our house this weekend. We now have two granddaughters for a week, and additional family descends during the week. We love the chaos, but it is exhausting. A byproduct of the activity is no time to read the paper, listen to the news, catch up with the latest newsflash and social media chatter. Driving home from the airport with our charges, the horrendous events in Orlando filtered in over the radio. We immediately changed stations, not wanting to upset the little girls over horrors they cannot understand. Let them enjoy summer bike rides to the ice cream store and other simple childhood pleasures as long as possible…

We hosted adult guests during the week. The highlight of our get-together was a visit to a wildlife refuge. A laid-back summer bird-watching expedition turned into something quite different. Read about our experience in Marooned at the Refuge.

It's rare, indeed, when a young person acknowledges a Boomer for their advice. Carol Cassara at Heart-Mind-Soul shows us a beautiful note she got from a 20-something nephew that did just that, and her response to it in Wisdom of Elders.

In a different but related piece, she asks how Boomer readers are harnessing the wisdom of age for those coming up behind us.

Bloggers at times spotlight a guest blogger on their site. This week Laura Lee says her pooch Rasta requested to provide a guest post on humans and their gadgets this week. We may love gadgets, but do our dogs?

I love the Remember Her/Him posts offered occasionally by Tom Sightings, although I admit to not recognizing many of the people until almost the end of the post. Tom Sightings offers one of his Remember Her? posts this week. She was an icon of the 1950s, who, had she lived, she would have turned 90 years old on June 1 -- the same age as Queen Elizabeth.So channel surf over to Sightings Over Sixty to see if you can guess who she was, to find out a few interesting things about her background ... and to check out some of Tom's other recent posts. 

On The Survive and ThriveBoomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about two financial tips that could help you. If you co-sign for a loan with someone, such as an adult child, not only could it damage your relationship, it also could affect your credit score. And, if you’re going to rent a car this summer, be sure to check and see what coverage your credit card issuer will provide and if your auto insurance company also provides coverage. If neither one offers adequate coverage, it might be wise to accept the liability insurance and collision damage waiver offered by the car rental company. 

As we plunge into summer activities, take a couple of minutes to pause, remember and offer prayers for those slaughtered this weekend. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Marooned at the Refuge

The pristine wilderness of the wildlife refuge.
An afternoon in the Edwin B.Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge highlighted my week. Visiting friends are avid bird watchers and the park offers ideal sightings.

The sun sparkled as we left home, but the sky began clouding over as we entered the park. Weather.com noted the possibility of rain 60% in the late afternoon. It was around noon. 

The unpaved park road meanders about eight miles through the refuge. Short walking trails dot the park and we planned to hike a couple of trails observing flora and fauna close up. Our keen-eyed passengers spotted animal life and we stopped often for pictures. I felt we were unwanted intruders disturbing the solitude, lone visitors this weekday. Casino towers of Atlantic City loomed over ten miles away in one quadrant of our 360 vision, while along the horizon marsh and bay waters, stretching to the Atlantic Ocean, met gray sky, our view unmarred by cars or humans.
 
The sky clouds over 
As the wind picked up clouds drifting overhead became increasingly ominous. The sun retreated, the atmosphere more like twilight than high noon.

My phone beeped, indicating an incoming message. I read aloud:

“Alert. Code RED Weather Warning: The National Weather Service has issued a Severe Thunderstorm warning for your location from 12:37 PM until 1:15 PM.”

It was 12:38 P.M.

My phone and hub’s phone rang simultaneously, the same recorded Code RED message playing.

Why were we the recipients of these warnings? After Superstorm Sandy, our town advised residents to subscribe to National Weather Service alerts for our area as well as to our city’s automated phone service communicating warnings of storms, power outages, and other unusual occurrences.

Before the message ended, the wind started whistling and swirling around us. The temperature plunged and rain, initially a drizzle, swiftly increased in intensity and fierceness, battering the car’s roof and windshield.

We closed the windows, tightened our seat belts, and hub picked up speed.

No one said much, everyone too intent on the activity encircling us. Tension inside the car soared as the storm raged outside. We all thought: let’s get out of here. Now, our leisurely-paced tour of the wildlife refuge transformed into a strong desire to get out of the open as soon as possible, quickly but safely.

The landscape totally flat, the road barely a couple of feet above water, questions rolled around our brains, everyone too petrified to voice their fears: What happens if the waters begin rising? What do we do if waves wash over the road? The winds rattle our car? We love our Mazda, but it is not the sturdiest vehicle to withstand a storm.

News headlines flashed through my head: Black Mazda found in national park bay. Search continues for survivors…

We stared straight ahead, silently beckoning the woods ahead closer. We held our breath as the car forged ahead on the narrow dirt road separating two wildly choppy bodies of water, windshield wipers furiously shifting back and forth, the only sounds shattering rain and howling winds.

After an interminable amount of time, but probably only 15 minutes, we reached the woods. The park exit half a mile away, our fears subsided and tensions eased, thrilled we avoided a calamitous end.

“Uh-oh, I can’t believe it,” hub’s voice broke the silence.

Staring straight ahead, our eyes widened at the sight of a tree across the road directly in front of us, a massive, unmovable trunk with no way around it.

Headlines: Tree falls in wildlife refuge and four tourists hear it. Unfortunately it was the last thing they heard…

I grabbed the park brochure on the seat next to me and dialed the park number.

“Hello, Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge,” a woman’s cheery voice announced.

“We are on the road through the park, about a half mile from the end, and there is a tree in the road. We can’t pass.”

“You are in the woods?”

“Yes.”

“OK, I will contact the park rangers and they will be there shortly.”
Hub and I attempting to move the tree off the road.
Suddenly giddy and laughing about our plight, marooned in the wilderness, we grabbed our cameras and phones and took pictures.

Twenty minutes passed. A white pickup truck with lights on drove towards us, barely visible through the limbs and leaves of the fallen tree.

A ranger got out and walked over to us.

“The weather is gnarly. Can’t remove the tree until the weather improves. Turn around and drive back along the road. You’ll make it.”

“Gnarly?” I repeated to my three companions.

“Really bad,” Jane explains.

Headline: Gnarly Weather Blamed as Four Tourists Perish in Sudden Storm.

On the return trip through the park we noticed this fellow
surviving the storm by sheltering in place.
With sighs of resignation and stomachs starting to growl, we turned around and retraced our drive.

The remainder of the trip proved blissfully uneventful. The rain slowed to a trickle and the sinister clouds dissipated. In the distance blue slivers pierced the sky and a couple of rays of sun shone through.

Reaching the end of the park road, we breathed a collective sigh of relief and imparted loud shouts of joy. All four of us experienced enough pristine, solitary wilderness for one day. Actually for the entire summer.

But we got some great pictures. And memories.
After the storm we enjoyed lunch at a bar on the bay. I was so cold I bought a sweatshirt.
Storm over but winds still strong.

Monday, June 6, 2016

One (of many) Expensive Items I Will Never Buy

Our dishwasher is in hospice mode. It lived a long, low-maintenance life, and although we will be sorry to see it go, it is time. A small mat underneath the door catches dripping water, and the machine groans, "Another wash, you filling me up again? Enough! I am ready for the appliance graveyard. Take me there. Please..."

I am honoring my dishwasher's wishes.

The dishwasher was the reason hub and I found ourselves in an appliance store one afternoon. We are not finicky shoppers and do not want or need lots of bells and whistles we will not use. It is just hub and I at home. Company descends occasionally. We can handle the influx with less-than-top-of-the-line appliances.

It did not take long to choose a dishwasher. And an oven.

Did I mention we also need an oven? Not in appliance hospice yet, the oven is in the assisted-living phase. Peeling enamel, inoperative self-cleaning mechanism…Signs for sales on certain items greeted our entrance into the store. My first choice dishwasher displayed a price beyond our budget, but the sale price placed it within range. Only one oven model met our requirements. We bought it.

Hub and I made our way to the sales desk to complete paperwork. Next to the counter a display of shiny new small appliances caught my eye. I wandered over to the sleek, stainless steel toasters, one a two slicer and another a four-slice model.

I carefully examined one of the models, but could not find a price. Curious I asked the salesman. He looked at me and said, "two ninety nine and three ninety nine."

I stared at him a few seconds and muttered, "You mean three hundred and four hundred dollars?"

"Yes."

Who pays that kind of money for a toaster? What unique accouterments could a toaster possess that would command such a price?

Hub purchased our current toaster at our neighborhood Rite Aid. He walked down the street and returned a few minutes later with a $7.99 white toaster.

“Couldn't find anything plainer or cheaper?” I asked somewhat sarcastically.

But it works.

I realize some people have an incredible amount of money, but...My six-plus decades of prudent living cannot bring myself to pay that amount of money for a toaster. Call me cheap, thrifty, miserly, whatever. Cannot do it, no matter how much money I might have. Even if I win the lottery, a $300 toaster will not be on my wish list.

A few days later our new purchases arrived. Two repairmen removed the old appliances and installed the new oven. Then they unpacked the dishwasher.

Uh oh. The machine was damaged, and the installer immediately agreed to return it. Unfortunately the local warehouse did not have a replacement in stock.

So now there is a hole in my kitchen. I wash dishes the old fashioned way. By hand. In the sink. And plan meals using as few utensils, pots, etc. as possible.

Delivery and installation is scheduled for next week. I could call the store and ask to add a toaster to my order, since the truck is returning to my house anyway. (Armed guards might be necessary so no one steals the precious item.) It would be a conversation piece if situated on my kitchen counter. I know relatives and friends would think me nuts.

There are a lot of things I will never buy, even if money was not an issue. I guess a toaster tops my list, just one of many expensive items I can easily live without. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

I Am History

Last week I attended a granddaughter’s graduation from preschool at a community center.

Kindergarten here she comes!

After the ceremony everyone adjourned to a large room for snacks, pictures, and goodie bags filled with a school T-shirt, yearbook, and months worth of schoolwork.

I wandered around, looking at bulletin boards announcing events for members of the community center.

One particular item caught my eye. 

 Suddenly I am history.

My entire generation is history. People – historians, sociologists, psychologists and others - study us.

I speculated about the instructor. An old geezer like myself? Or a fledgling historian with no idea what it was like living through the 60s, aging from a generation of innocent kids and a nation recovering from war, lulled by increasing economic prosperity and the relative calm of the 1950s, to a nation by the end of the 60s weary of an Asian war and transforming politically, economically, socially, culturally.

I started the 1960s as a kid attempting to live with such difficulties as one hard-wired wall phone in a house of four people…one black and white TV, no cable, 7 channels…one bathroom…no dishwasher (or microwave or computer or cell phone or DVDs).

I could tell stories -

About President Kennedy’s Cuban missile crisis speech. Unfortunately I was gossiping on the phone with a girlfriend …

About the music. Almost everyone of every age is familiar with Beatles songs, but I could describe taking the train along with girlfriends to Shea Stadium, witnessing the group perform amidst a mob of screaming teenagers.

About the assassination of President Kennedy and an eighth grade science class listening in disbelief as the school principal announced the tragedy over the school’s PA system.

About the first men on the moon, raging inflation, the escalation of a war baby boomers did not understand, how wardrobes changed when my high school dress code no longer required girls to wear skirts or dresses.

Staring at the sign I felt old. In the minds of the kids and parents milling around, celebrating four- and five-year-olds, the 1960s are the Stone Age, an era before Amazon, Google, Netflix, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat, Instagram, Starbucks and Nutella.

And I am a relic of that primitive era.

A couple of days later I took my nine-year-old granddaughter Hailey clothing shopping for her ninth birthday. We shopped at her favorite store, Justice, catering to kids and young teens, then walked around the mall and wandered into Chico’s, a favorite clothing store of mine.

Afterward Hailey announced to the grown-ups – her parents – that I shop at an old lady’s store, fuddy-duddy one of the eloquent terms she used.

OK, I accept the description, but my outfits are very different from the housedresses my grandmother wore or my Mom’s clothes. I don’t think Mom ever wore jeans.

The 1960s are history, occurring over half a century ago, and I am older than half a century. It is therefore time to, as the humorist Erma Bombeck stated, to “Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the 'Titanic' who waved off the dessert cart.”

And just in case this post got you a little down, I conclude with a couple of cartoons that hopefully will put a smile on your face –