Archive for the 'Relaxing with Friends' Category

2 Faces of Ahuva

relaxing at The Vault

Relaxing after a long day at the spa

I am having NO difficulty getting into the vacation mind-set this week. Let me clarify that a little – MY vacation mind-set. As you know, I spent Monday at Spa Ahuva. That night I sat down and made a list of all the things I needed to get done this week, things I’d like to get done this week, things that at some point need to get done around the house, and the list of this month’s donations. I had everything written down – 4 separate pad pages. Impressed with how industrious I was going to be, I treated myself to logging in to SL to hear Calli DJ’ing. She was at The Vault, doing a set of sultry tunes. It was the perfect end to a lovely day. I relaxed, chatted with the friends who were there, listened to the tunes, and savored the moment. I went to bed and slept a good sleep – the result of spending the day at the spa and the wonderful music.

DJ Calli

Always good to hear DJ Calli spin the tunes

I woke up the next day and stayed in bed, listening to my husband puttering about (he’s VERY noisy in the morning). There was no BC to come and cuddle. She hadn’t ‘tucked me in’ last night, either. So really – it was all HER fault. I was relaxed, thinking no need to move, let my husband feed the cats, when all of a sudden I realized: IT’S TUESDAY!!!!! I need to make 100 sandwiches this morning. It was about 10 to 8 in the morning. Lately I’ve been getting there about 8:05. I jumped out of bed yelling “It’s Tuesday – I need to make sandwiches”. I threw on my clothes, brushed my teeth, made a to-go cup of iced coffee, called to my husband – take care of the cats and raced out the door. I made it there by 8:20. 🙂 The other 3 were already there. When I walked in, Helene called out “The Birthday Girl!!!!” It’s true – they were 2 days early, but I’d already said I was taking off Thursday. Jay had baked me cookies, and they had prezzies for me and my brother-in-law, who also makes the sandwiches on Tuesdays. They had face masks from the soup kitchen we are supporting. They also brought the Birthday Crown for me to wear. 🙂 I need to return it next Tuesday because Helene’s birthday is the following week and SHE needs the crown then. 🙂 As you can see – I look stunning.

birthday princess

I have taken better pictures. Please remember that is unwashed hair. Was not intending to have the “off the shoulder look” – just part of the total being off-balance

We got the sandwiches and lunch bags done and out the door by 9:30. The stupid squirrels had dug up my dill, and my radishes had died, so I had 2 empty pots that needed flowers. I decided to give up on herbs and vegetables for the rest of the season. I’d planned to go way down to my favorite nursery, but was too lazy and befuddled at that point. Missing the morning routine had me completely off balance. I went to the nearest big box store to find something that would supply bright color and survive the sun (the temps have been in the 90s now for over a week). Well, I saw some canna lilies there at a very reasonable price. They looked so neglected. They looked like they deserved to be rescued. I did what had to be done – I bought 2 canna lilies and 2 pots of yellow marigolds. They were sooooo root-bound. Let’s hope they flower.

canna lily 1

I do hope it flowers – it was so root-bound

I came home, still somewhat off-balance. I looked at my many lists. I made it to the chiropractor that afternoon, before he left on vacation. The nerve! Who said HE could take a vacation??? I made a few phone calls (on my list, unlike making the sandwiches), crossed off buying flowers. I paid the bills, made the donations, and decided the rest of the chores could just wait until tomorrow. 🙂 I have to say, this is the first vacation where I am truly not thinking about work. I see the emails come through on my phone, but I just delete the garbage, mark others as read, and then stop thinking about them. I’m not at all tempted to just send one email, just do one thing. I have a password that is going to expire this week. I’m trying to decide if I should logon and deal with it or just let it expire and deal with it when I return. This vacation is proving a point that my dear friend Honour has been making for years: There is so much to DO if you are not working. I’m NOT going to be bored. Okay, most of my lists are what some would call ‘chores’, but for me they are very satisfying. I’m finally fixing and changing things around the house that have annoyed me for years. There might be something to this whole concept of ‘retirement’.

canna lily 2

This one looks in better shape. Gorgeous leaves even if it doesn’t flower

On Vacation

rudbeckia

Beautiful golden Rudbeckia Laciniata Hortensia

I started my one week vacation at 5:36 pm Friday night. *grin* That’s when I posted my last document to the team and signed out of all my applications and shut down my computer. Ahhhhh. We headed over to my sister’s where my brother-in-law had made the PERFECT Shabbat dinner: chicken, broccoli, potatoes, challah and SALT STICKS!!!! Oh my, his bread is absolutely amazingly delicious. As was the entire dinner. I drank too much white wine but I kept toasting “To Vacation!”.

gladiola

lovely color for the gladiola

We came home, STILL running the air conditioners. Maybe that doesn’t sound odd to you folk who live in modern houses with central air. I live in a house that is nearly 100 years old. MY air conditioners are all window units. I hate the sensation of being locked into the house. I love open windows, fresh air, fans moving the air. We’ve had the a/c going for 8 days straight. That may be a record.

incipient canna lily

Looks like this canna lily will be the first to bloom. surrounded by Bolton’s Aster (False Starwort)

It was Friday, I was on vacation, I was a little tipsy, and I was not in the mood to watch TV or read. What to do? Second Life. 🙂 I logged in. An “old” friend was inworld – I’d not chatted with her in at least 8 years. I pinged her and we had a lovely, lovely chat. We caught up on life, life under the pandemic, and then had a WONDERFUL time chatting about our cats and cats in general. 🙂 I also chatted with another “old” friend – one with whom I’ve maintained contact over the years. I know that some people do not feel as if this kind of connection is ‘real’. I’m sorry for those folks, because in times like this pandemic, for those of us who believe in social distancing, the ability to be together virtually does wonders for my emotional health. I’m looking at scenes that tell my brain I am out and about and interacting with friends. It really works for me. I only wish I could reconnect with some of my friends who are no longer in SL – Dale, Zha, Chestnut, Honour, Jessica, Oura, Svea, Alem, Fricker Fraker, Winston and all the rest. We had such fun back in the day.

is this a squash

I seem to be growing a squash of some sort. It snuck in with the flowers

Now here I am, the first morning of vacation. I treated myself by staying in bed an extra 90 minutes. BC was obliging. She did jump onto the bed after the first 60 minutes, but settled in when I began rubbing behind her ear. 🙂 She often prefers love to food. When I finally went downstairs and outside to bring in the newspapers, I discovered that the temperature and humidity were at a reasonable summer level. I opened ALL the windows. Yet another pleasure on this first day of vacation!

look at this bug

Just LOOK at this bug. It was huge. I have no idea what it is

You Can Go Home Again

Ahuva and Bamboo

Bamboo and me relaxing at home

I’ve been reading a LOT, although mostly books that do not challenge and are not edifying and ARE an attempt at escapism. I’ve watched more TV in the last 2 months than I have probably watched in the last 5 years combined – I’m NOT a big TV watcher. I haven’t been able to work in the garden and see the neighbors working in their gardens or folks taking walks. I confess – I was lonely. What do you do if you are lonely and want people and music and company but you are practicing separation and isolation? You go home to SecondLife.

I know that a lot of the folks who follow this blog started following long after my SL days. You seem to enjoy my musings on my cats, my garden, life in general, work, the weather and all those other aspects of what is also known as IRL – “in real life”. This blog started as a chronicle of my adventures in SL. It was a marvelous time. I was privileged to not only enjoy SL in my private life but could work and build and develop as part of my professional career as well. But time moves on, people take new jobs, people die, get new interests, have other obligations. *rueful smile* Gaming laptops age. All of those things happened and I stopped going into SL. It took me a few years to surrender my land. I was paying around $40 a month, I think, for something I never used. I was never able to convince myself to give up my premium status, however. I was paying $72 a year for that until this past payment when it rose to $100/yr. Even so, I could not make that break. I had a zillion rationalizations for why I should keep the account.

Mallory, Bill & Drake

Mallory, Bill and Drake (Bill is the white one)

I’d been chatting via social media with a friend from those good old SL days and we agreed to try to meet inworld. She had a new avatar, a new life, new friends, new everything there. Last night I went ‘home’. *laughing* Good grief, I’d forgotten SO MUCH. First, my pool with my ducks was making SO MUCH NOISE it was making me crazy. Why did I ever think pool sounds were a good idea? I knew I had to open the item, find the script that made the noise and stop it, but could not remember how to do it. I’ve also realized that at some point when we moved from our home on the water to our treetop home, Drake dyed his feathers yellow. He used to be white. I had 2 white ducks and one yellow and now I have 2 yellow ducks and one white one. I asked Drake why and he said he needed a new look for a new home. Bill, as usual, was totally oblivious to everything.

Sean and Ahuva

Ahuva and Sean, If I want to keep my avatar somewhat aligned with my body, I’m going to need to add a lot more width. 🙂

I did a little better at moving around and getting my panda, Bamboo, to come back and join me. Thank goodness my friend came inworld and helped me remember how to stop scripts, manage sound. Wow. Did she look different. I knew she had a new avatar, but avatar structure and movement have improved immensely since I was there last. Her fingers MOVED! My fingers are very blocky looking. We sat and talked and talked (yes, talked, we both went to voice, not just text chat). She promised to meet me again and take me shopping for a new body, new head, new hair and lots of new clothes!!!! I’m so excited! 🙂

Ahuva at Smokestack

Sitting at the bar at Smokestack, listening to Noma

While we were talking other friends logged in and saw that I was logged in. I got several IMs saying hello and *hug*. I accepted a TP from a friend to a performance going on by one of the musicians I always liked – Grace McDonnough. In this case TP means Teleport, NOT toilet paper. 🙂 I had a great time talking to my friend there, and hearing Grace’s singing. From there I headed over to Prim Economy to hear Komuso Tokugawa, who is one of my top 2 favorite performers in SL. I still listen to his music (which I had downloaded). I made a new friend there as we shared conversation about horses and shoes. The inworld versions of both have apparently improved as much as the avatars. She says that when you are riding a horse inworld you actually have the natural movement of a horse (you used to simply move forward with no rise and fall). I’m extremely excited to try riding in SL again. My good friend Calli was inworld. I managed to get over to Tribeca to catch the very last song of her set. Since it was Friday, and it was Tribeca, of course the closing song was “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen. It’s ALWAYS Hallelujah. Last night’s rendition was by Jeff Buckley.

Noma

Noma Falta

I went back in on Saturday, too. This time I remembered how to adjust my draw rate (how far away you can see items) and quality of detail. Slowly but surely some of the tricks are coming back. I caught up with another dear friend from the “old days”. I also got to hear Noma Falta live. I swear she gets better all the time. She was rocking it out at Smokestack. That venue was new for me. I like it. Had good seating, good dancing scripts, lots of people there. I did see one or two familiar names in the audience. It was another lovely evening. I sat there sipping my wine, listening to great music, chatting with my friend, catching up on all that has been happening. I was home. 🙂

Noma rocking the crowd at Smokestack

The crowd at Smokestack, dancing to Noma

Not Quite the Holiday I Envisioned

IMG_2875

Yes, I have bins full of paper goods for all occasions

Good thing for me that I follow the Jewish calendar and the New Year starts on Rosh Hashanah, which happened back in September. Although there were some bumps in the road then, too, I got to spend a wonderful holiday in Arizona with my son, welcoming the new year. I have a zillion photos that I’ve been meaning to share with you about that, sometime. 🙂 But even if Rosh Hashanah is “my” new year, I love to party with the rest of the world when the calendar switches from December 31 to January 1. Of course by now you should know that I just love to party. 🙂

The first decision is always HOW to party – throw a party, go to a party, quiet party, loud party. You might remember that last year was my party-to-end-all-parties – the unveiling of The New Kitchen!! That party took at least 4 blog posts to describe. *grin* This year I decided that I was a bit worn out and wanted a quieter celebration. We decided to go back to our traditional NYE party – a group of friends over for dinner. We have a group of friends that I call “the gang of 8” – us and 3 other couples. Sometimes it’s the gang of 9 when my son joins us, sometimes it’s the gang of 10 when my sister and her husband join us, but for many, many years I have used the shorthand of ‘gang of 8’ to describe us (as in over 20 years, I believe, maybe getting close to 25 years). Anyway, we opted for dinner for the gang of 10.

IMG_2873

I seem to remember much smaller hens – do they shrink in cooking?

Originally I thought that we’d make the 18 pound turkey we have in the downstairs freezer. Of the possible 10 eaters, 2 are vegetarians. That’s a lot of turkey for 8 people when you figure there will be side dishes as well. Then I was reading Jinjer’s blog and saw she was making Cornish Game Hens. Wow!! I haven’t thought about those in YEARS! There was a time when they were the ‘in’ food and EVEN MY MOTHER cooked them (my mother never cooked if at all possible). *smile* I thought that individual game hens was MUCH better than 18 pounds of turkey. My husband found frozen game hens at the local grocery store and a decision was made.

IMG_2872

NOT the usual counter displays I share with you 😦

I have to tell you that planning dinner for the gang of 8 is a challenge. There was a time when we were all much younger when we had fewer food issues. Now – well now I almost think the challenge of preparing a menu and dishes is almost as much fun as getting to spend time with my friends. *grin* But that is definitely another post. Anyway, I had a great menu planned. Then I woke up on the morning of December 21 with congestion and a fever. Okay, I can deal with this: liquids, more liquids and rest. Except I kept getting worse. I was working that week (or at least nominally working) and was hard pressed to concentrate on the monitor. Definitely a fever. Definitely a hacking cough. Definitely SICK. All week. I was sleeping in a chair for 3 days until I threw my back out. So even though I felt better Thursday, I couldn’t move from the pain. We had a major party to attend on Saturday evening. I spent Thursday and Friday horizontal on ice packs. Saturday came. Yay for decongestants, cough drops, Advil and nose spray. We made it to the party and back again. I even managed Sunday morning to do all the grocery shopping for NYE dinner. And of course I picked up a treat for the kitties (obligatory photos included). Made it to my sister’s and brother-in-law’s for a phenomenal Sunday dinner of standing rib roast and the most amazing potatoes ever and heavenly salt stick rolls.

IMG_2867

How DO you take good photos of black cats?????

Woke up Monday morning realizing that I was NOT healthy and NOT feeling like there was anyway I could throw a party the next night, no matter how relaxed. When I saw my husband taking the hens out to defrost I told him to put them back. Monday night I sent out an email and rescheduled our dinner to Saturday, January 4. I was in bed (in the chair again) on NYE by 10 pm, with decongestants, nose spray, cough drops, tissues, advil. The ball dropped at Times Square without my help. 🙂 Last night, January 1, my husband said “I’m going to take a dip (in our hot tub) because I’m feeling a little congested.” Oh no!!!!!!! It was inevitable but still horrible – now he is sick. I know several people who have gotten this chest congestion and coughing and misery. It seems to last FOREVER. With any luck my husband will shake it off faster than I did, okay, I still haven’t. In my head I figure Saturday night dinner is not happening.

IMG_2874

Sigh. A lot of this dinner party food is perishable. And this is only the downstairs refrigerator.

This is not the best way to start a new year. On the other hand, maybe if we get all the germs out of the way NOW, the rest of the year will be healthy. One can only hope!

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Better slightly blurry cat pictures than photos of waste baskets full of tissues!

Because I Can

biscuits

baking powder biscuits fresh from the oven

*grin* This post is for my Fundy Bay Friend. I am in awe of all she does and accomplishes way up north in her new home (well new to her but oh so old in many other respects, hence all her accomplishments). She does things mechanical, takes fantastic photos, deals with demanding beasts (both 2 and 4 legged), deals with border police delaying her packages, and so many other successes out there on the island. She insists, however, that she can’t bake. We were discussing baking the other day and she cut me off each time I attempted to suggest she make her own pastry for her upcoming culinary treats. This is for YOU, m’dear, because it’s fun to tease. I woke up the other morning and it was cold and gray and I thought “Biscuits!!!” Warm, fresh biscuits would make this Monday morning palatable. Warm biscuits, fresh coffee. Ahhhh. Let me know if you want the recipe. I promise it’s simple. As for the coffee – *laughing* – I’ll buy a drone and fly some to you.

biscuits and coffee

Ahhhhh

Walking in the Woods

fallen tree with multiple branches

This past weekend my friend Amy and I went off to walk in the woods. Neither of us wanted anything strenuous. We wanted to be outside in the fresh air, walking, in nature. We had several ideas: the Middlesex Greenway, the Great Swamp, Patterson Falls, the Raritan canal towpath, and the Rutgers Ecological Preserve, among many other options. I’m willing to bet that surprises many of you who probably have only seen pictures of NJ from the NJ Turnpike. NOT our best side, for sure. Try taking Rt 287 up north towards the NY state line – that will surprise you as well. Back in the late 1970s NJ was 2/3 forest. We have all sorts of preserved areas, national parks, state parks and of course the Pine Barrens. There is STILL a lot of Mother Nature green in our state.

twisted vines and branches

Twisted vines and branches

We opted for the Rutgers Ecological Preserve. Amy had only ever seen a tiny sign at one corner of the preserve, and often wondered how/where you could get in there. I often pass 2 of the small parking areas that have trail beginnings. Other than that, neither of us knew anything about it. I was fairly certain it would be mostly flat walking as I knew the general area was not at all hilly, or at least not more than our town. Amy and I both walk about town so it seemed a safe choice. We thought we’d walk for perhaps an hour. I thought we might manage 3 miles that way as I knew we’d be walking, not trying to “make time” or get anywhere.

dead vines wrapped around tree trunk

I liked the texture from the vines wrapped about the trunk

My husband printed out 2 copies of the trail map for us. I figured we could park on Road 3, take the red trail to the orange trail, and then cut back on the white trail to get back to the car. Amy had her walking stick, and I had on long sleeves and long pants – I’d been warned by my neighbor about poison ivy.

bridge over the brook

Our first view of the brook – our surprise!

We parked the car and walked to the only trail opening that we saw. It was the blue and white entrance. We turned and went back because we wanted red. There was a flat field, maybe for parking? To be honest, I can’t remember if there was a barricade up or not, but we walked across gravel and grass and did indeed find a second trail head – the red trail. There was almost no one else on the trail – a bicyclist passed us at the beginning but it was just the 2 of us, chatting and walking and looking at the trees.
brook and tree roots

There were a LOT of dead trees. In as sense the dead trees were much more interesting than the live ones. There is such stark elegance in the stripped branches. They make such curious shapes. We started seeing all sorts of animals and items in the branches.

bark squirrel climbing down tree

Bark ‘squirrel’

We also discovered a brook. I wasn’t expecting a brook. That’s because I didn’t actually LOOK at the map other than to see trails. I’ll spoil the suspense now and tell you that we did not turn off where we had planned to turn back toward the car. We saw another brook when we were high up above it. My memory of the distances does not match with what I see on the map. I’m very bad at spatial recognition. But I’m fairly sure that we saw both brooks that are in the eastern side of the preserve.

bees heading home to dead log

can you see the bees heading home into the log?

Most of the path was completely clear. We had 2 spots where we did have to step over fallen trees. There were other spots where someone had come through and cut away large chunks of tree to open the trail.
cleared path

We figured out we had missed the turn to the white trail when the trail began climbing up and up and all we saw were orange markers and then saw orange and blue markers. We’d also been walking for well over an hour at that point. Hey, we were having fun and enjoying ourselves.

fallen tree roots making a wall

The base of this tree was like a huge wall – or from this angle – a mud monster

I took out my cell phone to see if by any chance the paths would be marked on the map. Not unexpectedly they were not. But using my phone, showing me in what direction I was moving, and using the trail map, we figured out that we needed to hang a sharp left onto the blue path and make our way back there.

criss crossed dead branches

luckily this was NOT on the path

We followed the blue and white paths to a trail exit and realized immediately that it was the one on Road 1, not Road 3. That was easily fixed by backing up a few feet and hanging a right on the white path. That took us back to where we had started – our first foray out of the parking lot. All in all we walked for approximately 2 hours and covered 3.7 miles, including multiple stops for me to take pictures, and a longer stop on a bench on the top of a hill overlooking the brook.

second brook

we were higher than it appears – I zoomed in

We saw only 5 other people, plus some youth hiking group that entered at the junction of the red and orange paths just ahead of our arrival there. We never saw them again. We saw the bicyclist twice – once heading in and once on the trail. We saw a woman with her young dog. I think she said it was an English Springer Spaniel, but it was absolutely terrified of us and we didn’t wish to prolong its misery. We passed a man on his way out at the Orange/Red trail end on Avenue E. We passed 2 young student looking types when we took our hard left onto the Blue path. That was it. We were undoubtedly the loudest slowest folks in the preserve. 🙂

bark possum walking up the tree

Bark possum walking up the tree

Once we were back at the car we decided we deserved some lunch. That of course necessitated thinking and deciding. As we cogitated I drove to show Amy some other neat things I knew in the area (but the horse wasn’t in the field 😦 ). She remembered a health food cafe she’d been to with a friend in our general vicinity. Given her description (near those strip malls, but not in them, but behind them, tucked away) I wasn’t sure we’d find that one but I did know where all the strip malls with tucked away back areas were in that area. We were such successful intrepid trekkers that day that not only did we find our way out of the woods unassisted, but we found her restaurant. We both had delicious wraps and iced coffee. A perfect ending to a perfect walk in the woods. Next time we’ll tackle the Great Swamp!

brook with bridge on blue path

Beach Escape

ahh ocean

Ahhhh. Ocean.

I FINALLY made it to the beach!!! Complete and utter thanks to my friend Pam. She called Sunday night and said that her schedule had cleared completely (and unexpectedly) and did I want to go to the beach on Monday? I looked at MY empty schedule and looked at the forecast: in the 70s, partly sunny. That wasn’t exactly beach weather but it sure was a beach schedule. I told her to count me in! We agreed that we’d aim to leave around 10am, which is what I’d normally consider a late start. Ask my family. They’ll tell you that when the kids were little, and we’d head down on a hot summer day, I’d be trying to get them out the door before 8:30 am. There’s a lot to plan for a “beach attack”: beat the traffic, close parking spot to the beach access, perfect spot on the sand, staking out the perimeter of OUR spot to keep others from getting sand on us. If *I* didn’t worry about these things, who would??? Exactly!

Given the weather forecast, given that it was a Monday (a slow beach day), and given that the last week in August either has children back in school or away on family vacations or shopping for school shoes and clothes, I didn’t think a planned attack would be required. I didn’t need to pack much food or drink. I’ve learned that I don’t really eat much when I’m on the beach, and I definitely don’t drink a lot because I hate the trek back to the rest rooms. It wasn’t going to be a hot sun so I didn’t need my beach umbrella. All in all for me it was ‘beach light’. I offered to drive and went to pick up Pam. Of course I was in the convertible and of course the top was down. Is there another way to go down the shore? No. We posed in the car so her husband could snap pictures of us. If there is no photo, it didn’t happen. I guess for ME, if there is no blog post, it didn’t happen. *grin*

View to NYC skyline

View north to NYC skyline. Too hazy for a clear picture.

There was no trouble getting down to Sandy Hook (Gateway National Recreation Area). There is a fee per car to get in, but I had packed my AARP card in case that would get me a discount. My husband has the National Parks card, but he wasn’t with us and it is not transferable. Pam has one too, but she didn’t bring it. When I asked the gate guard if AARP got me a discount he sadly informed us that it did not. But, he said, given that it’s the last week of the season, and given that I bend the rules sometimes, I’ll let you in for the discounted price. Yes!!! Lucky again! We thanked him, paid up, and headed up the hook. As you may have noticed about me, I have my “usual routine” of things I do and places I go. 🙂 We ALWAYS park at parking lot E. The parking lot entrances were a little different than I recalled, which tends to happen every season. There is sand and dunes on both sides of the road. Winter storms move the landscape regularly. We got down to E and – IT WAS CLOSED!!!! That was unexpected. We discussed turning around to go back to D or heading onward towards the North Beach and Fort Hancock. Northward it was!

I’ve been to the North Beach once, a few years ago, with my niece. It didn’t work for me. It was too far from the parking lot and the beach was too narrow. Look, a bad day at the beach is better than a good day most anywhere else, so if all there is is the North Beach, go. This will sound foolish but we couldn’t find the parking lot for the North Beach. I think, in hindsight, I know where it was, but given my lackluster view of that beach anyway, and the fact that we were having fun simply driving on the hook, we kept going to Fort Hancock.

more ocean

You can never have too much ocean gazing

Fort Hancock is a decommissioned army base. Stealing from the Wikipedia entry I can tell you that:

The Sandy Hook area was first fortified as part of the third system of US fortifications. Construction on the Fort at Sandy Hook began in 1857 and ceased in 1867, with the fort serviceable though largely incomplete.

The initial design of the fort was by then-Captain Robert E. Lee of the Army Corps of Engineers.

The lighthouse at Sandy Hook is the oldest working lighthouse in the United States. It was originally 500 feet from the water, but given shifting sands over time, it’s now about 1.5 miles from the tip.

Many years ago my husband (who is a structural engineer) was working on a project that involved rehabilitating the old army barracks and buildings for commercial use. I don’t think anything came of that particular project but as Pam and I cruised through Fort Hancock, we saw a renovated building listed for rent. It was a home, not a commercial building. I would LOVE to get inside there and see what they have done. It would be so cool to live there – during the day. I’d be creeped out completely at night, to be there all alone. The Marine Academy of Science and Technology is there, but it’s not a boarding school. If you click through on the Gateway National link above, you can see that they are now accepting Requests for Proposals “to lease multiple historic buildings for any compatible use of historic buildings, (such as residential, lodging, or business use related to residential or lodging use),commercial use, or nonprofit within Fort Hancock”. How fantastic would that BE, to live/work at Sandy Hook? Oh, if I only had money to invest and an idea to propose.

New beach blanket, traditional red bag

Brand new beach blanket; years old traditional red bag; hidden tag alongs

I do actually have an idea to propose. Many years ago I invented something that every beach goer needs. Pam reminded me of this after we went back to Parking Lot D, trudged to OUR spot on the shore, and set up our chairs, blanket and her umbrella. This year I’ve been hearing a lot on the news about a NJ congressman who wants to propose some legislation or law or something to protect beach goers from fly-away beach umbrellas. I believe it was last year a woman was impaled and died from a fly-away umbrella, so this is a real issue. I don’t believe, however, that passing laws will address the situation. I “invented” my own umbrella anchoring system using just what I found in my car one windy, beach-going day. I had plastic bags and rope. I combined that with the plentiful beach sand and MY beach umbrellas do NOT fly away. Pam and I amused ourselves by designing the retail version of my system. *grin* Anyone out there with an entrepreneurial spirit want to help me copyright my system???

Seagull Lord of All It Sees

Lord of All It Sees

The other “problem” at the beach are the brazen seagulls. Like the deer in my hometown, which now roam the streets in gangs during the daylight hours, terrorizing the local gardeners and car parkers alike, the seagulls down the shore have no fear. They’d walk right up to our blanket. One of them pecked at my sandal. I guess birds don’t rely on smell, but only sight to determine what to eat. Two of them were pecking at my plastic bag filled with sand. As long as they keep their distance from me (and even clapping my hands at them was insufficient for some) and don’t defecate on me or my things, I do like to watch them swoop and soar and love the sound of their cries.

View of Causeway from mainland to Sandy Hook

View south to causeway, which you can see up close in the Moby’s pictures

We never made it into the water, although we saw many children playing in the waves. We walked down and stuck our toes in, and that was sufficient. 🙂 The sun had come out and we were perfectly comfortable with the breeze off the water. We were close enough that we’d get the occasional sea spray as well. I never even took off my shirt and shorts, finally remembering to apply sunscreen after we’d been sitting for perhaps an hour. My knee felt ‘warm’ and I thought ‘oh oops’. I’m okay. I definitely got color but I’m not burned. I spent nearly all my time in my chair. I got to “test” my new beach blanket when Pam took a walk along the water. A little before 5 pm the breeze picked up and the sun had lowered over the bay sufficiently that it was getting more cold than cool. We’d had a good 6 hours down there so we agreed that we could pack up and head home.

I took Pam for quick cruise of the restaurants on the other side of the river. She said that she and her husband would be up for trying out the restaurant my husband and I scoped out when we were down at Moby’s the other weekend. Yay!! Another dinner down the shore if we can get compatible schedules! In the meantime, I brought a little ocean to share with you.

Small Town 4th of July

crowd 3

I live in a fairly small town. I’ve spent the majority of my life in this town. My immediate family is/was also in this town. We have street fairs, parades, festivals and, of course, a July 4th celebration. Oddly enough I don’t remember taking part in the 4th of July festivities very often, if at all. July 4th was my parents’ wedding anniversary, and I used to throw a BBQ for them. That evolved into a BBQ with friends (all of whom lived in town). We’d wander out into the street after dark to try to glimpse the fireworks, or we’d all traipse down to the river to have a good view of the fireworks. crowd 2In the last few years we loaded ourselves into the car and drove to a bridge to watch the fireworks from there (with many others who also pulled over and parked on the bridge for just that purpose). But we rarely headed down to the park itself to join the town celebration.

This year I’m a little tuckered out from busy weekends and sweaty weather. I made no plans to entertain, figuring we’d do this long weekend in the ‘spur of the moment’. Early in the week I asked my husband if he’d go down to the park with me and he agreed. You may not understand how momentous it was for him to agree. He isn’t really much into doing things outdoors in the heat. He gets devoured by mosquitoes. He has fair skin and burns in the sun. He’s not really overly fond of crowds. Opposites attract, right? I LOVE being out in the hot sun. I often think I am a form of vampire, because crowd energy is food for me, and I suck it right into my soul.

Once he agreed I started planning (some might say obsessing) with how to make it palatable so that (1) he would follow through on his agreement, (2) we wouldn’t have to leave early and (3) maybe we could do it again next year. 🙂 The park is on the other side of the town from us – about a 20 minute relaxed walk. crowd 1The police were going to shut down the streets next to the park and block parking as well. I figured we’d want chairs for fireworks viewing so I needed to figure out how to have the chairs there and ready and not have to shlepp them and carry them about while we ate, and saw whatever sights there were to be seen. I arranged with a friend to leave my car, with chairs-in-bags, parked in front of her house, which is about 5 blocks from the park. I drove the car over early in the morning and left it there so that I had MY SPOT all set before the crush for parking began in the early evening. I knew also that at the end of the evening we would not want to be hiking up hill all the way back home. We are at the highest point in town and the park is at the lowest. I was also hoping that I’d parked on the road that would have less pedestrian traffic as that road did not lead directly into the park itself. Now you see why some folks describe my planning as obsessing. 🙂

Came 6:30 and it was time. We coated ourselves liberally with insect repellent, long pants, sneakers and socks, and headed off to our car.bubbles in the grass We were obviously ahead of the crowd still and I saw a BETTER SPOT on the next block down so I moved the car. *grin* It’s PLANNING, really. 🙂 As we reached the entrance to the park we met our friends who were unloading passengers and chairs. A propitious omen for a good time. We wandered on down into the park, perused the food vendors, grabbed food and headed to the lawn to park ourselves in our chairs. I’m pretty certain my chair is broken. It sits VERY low to the ground and closer inspection seems to indicate that a bolt might be missing.

We were sitting and enjoying the periodic cool breeze, the beautiful sky, the musical attempts from the stage. We saw some friends we’ve not seen in ages, as she and I both exclaimed “Oh I’ve been meaning to CALL you!” I loved watching all the people. The children with their bubble machines (everybody wins at the carnival games there – play til you pick your prize). Did you know that if you aim your bubble machine at the ground you can make a mountain of bubbles?night sky Everyone has a different idea as to what one wears to the 4th of July festival in the park. There was a lot of happy and energy and good vibrations. Hey – we even met the mayor. *grin* My sister and her husband came down and joined us and soon it was TIME.

The fireworks were fantastic. I wasn’t really sure how good they’d be. I mean, fireworks are never BAD, but some are merely fireworks. These were FIREWORKS!!! They were beautiful and constant and they lit up the sky. People were oooo’ing and ahhhhh’ing and clapping and cheering. My husband thought that the finale might have been the best fireworks we have ever seen. They were truly stupendous. Absolutely great show and I’m so glad we went.

It was a perfect small-town 4th of July celebration. Not a single bug bite. Seeing friends. Eating festival food. Perfect summer weather. Even joining the exodus from the park went smoothly (yay for air-conditioned cars). As my brother-in-law quipped “Our tax dollars at work!” Worth EVERY penny.

5 fireworks

We’re Having a Party!

I love socializing. I love feeding people. I love my friends. I love throwing a good party. There are several parties/food events I do every year, some of them more elaborate than others. I used to throw a New Year’s Eve party. We had what I used to call “The Gang of Eight” – 4 couples that got together frequently during the year. After my son was born I called us the Gang of 8.5. 🙂 One of our standard get-togethers was on New Year’s Eve. menuAlong with a few other folk, we’d get together at my house for dinner and watch the ball drop. Then a few years ago some of us began murmuring about being too tired to stay up til midnight. I remember one year where I think 3 of the females were actually asleep on couches and chairs after dinner – we had to wake them before midnight. *grin* NOT ME. But you knew that. A few years ago I made an “executive decision” – I moved our get-together to New Year’s Day, called it Brunch/Lunch and invited a few more people. It was still a relatively small crowd and we did still have New Year’s Eve with a small handful of folk (who could stay awake, or at least attempted to make it to midnight).

This year, between the college football playoff games and my new kitchen, I decided a more drastic change was required. I decided that we would FINALLY have our “come see our gorgeous new kitchen” open house along with our New Year’s Day luncheon. coffe labelsOnce I drew up the invitation list, I saw I had around 60 people on the list. I’ve posted pictures of the inside of my house and you should know that it would be an extremely tight squeeze to fit 60 people on my first floor without removing furniture – even WITH removing furniture. I think the only time I’ve hosted that many simultaneously was for my son’s bris, when I think we had between 60-70 people there (and yes – we took most of the furniture out of the living room and put in folding chairs). We got lucky that day because it was in March and we had some springtime temperatures and people flowed out onto the deck as well. But I wasn’t worried. I knew that on my list there were some who wouldn’t come (just because they don’t come), some who would be away for the holiday, and some who had prior commitments. New Year’s Day is NOT an original date for a get-together. 🙂

How do you throw a party for 60 people? I start by looking at the folk I expect to show up, and noting all of their dietary preferences. *grin* My mother used to stress-out totally about entertaining. She was an ogre on the days leading up to the entertaining, and the day-of she would practically have palpitations. spiked punchAnd that would be just for having the bridge club over to play bridge (12 people there for a specific purpose eating only munchies, coffee & dessert), long before this day and age when everyone has some food preference and/or allergy. So I make my list: gluten-free, diabetic, kosher, vegetarian, no alcohol, following the keto diet, on a lose-weight diet. Apparently I also have someone who does not eat nightshade but I didn’t know that until she was there and checking ingredients. Once I have the food restrictions, I begin on my menu. There must be enough food that all of those people will have a CHOICE of something to eat. I don’t want to have a pile of carrot sticks to hand out and say “here – you can eat this”. 🙂 (Do carrots have nightshade??? Something new to learn and consider.)

When I have my basic idea of food groups – appetizers, main course, side-dishes, desserts, drinks, snacks – I being selecting recipes. I have certain staples that work for large groups – roasting a turkey, large rectangular pan of quiche, bagels/lox/cream cheese – plus the standard drinks. gluten free Paring the menu down to the selected dishes is the next step. The dish has to fit the mood, fit my loose kashrut standards (no pork, no shellfish, no mixing meat & dairy in one dish) and be tasty. For this party I decided that other than my main courses (turkey, quiche, bagels/lox/cream cheese), all the other dishes had to be new and different – NOT like my other party menus. 🙂 And that meant – turn to the internet and browse!!!

Easy Red Lentil Soup

I first made this recipe back in September for my annual “Ladies’ dinner in the Sukkah”. The last 2 years, as it happens, the dinner has been in my dining room because it has been RAINING when we were supposed to be dining outside in the sukkah. Typically I make a dairy meal for this event for a variety of reasons. First, if I’m inviting folks who observe kashrut it’s easier for me to have something they will eat if I stick with dairy. Second, Sukkot is a harvest festival and vegetables and dairy seem much more appropriate. Third, some of my guests are vegetarians and so that pretty much says no meat.

My standard default meal starts with quiche, soup and fresh bread, and then I go from there. I’ve been making the same soup for the last few years – Ash’e Reshte (Persian Noodle Soup). I use the recipe from the “Persian Food from the Non-Persian Bride” cookbook. It’s a very simple, quick recipe and tastes delicious. This year one of my guests followed a gluten-free diet so noodle soup did not seem appropriate. img_0016I wasn’t in the mood for a vegetable soup so I began searching for lentil recipes online. I found one that appeared simple, yet tasty – NY Times Red Lentil Soup with Lemon. I read many of the comments (wow, some people really don’t hold back) and took them to heart as well. The ladies seemed to like the soup – it was all gone by the end of the evening, and I knew I’d found a new addition to my cooking repertoire.

This past week the forecast had been for a major weather event of some kind – snow, rain, sleet, ice or all of that at one point or another. I thought that soup and biscuits would be a great Friday night dinner. Alas, my plans were derailed by work. No way I had time to make dinner. Fortunately my husband came home with a grocery store-roasted chicken. 🙂 We agreed that Saturday would be Red Lentil soup with fresh salad and fresh bread. I was out running errands so rather than baking my own bread or biscuits, I stopped into Panera’s and picked up an Asiago Cheese focaccia. img_0017I made the salad in the early afternoon and started on the soup around 5:30 or so, AFTER feeding the cats. There are priorities in this household after all. 🙂

The soup is amazingly simple, wonderfully tasty and was the perfect meal for a cold rainy night. I’ve given you the link to the recipe – I do suggest you read some of the comments. People have very different expectations for a recipe and you will want to find the comments that echo what you like to eat. I made these changes (and I wrote them down so I’d remember from time to time):

1.5 generous cups of lentils
4 curry leaves
3 generous tablespoons of tomato paste
6 cloves of freshly minced garlic

The first time I made it I grated half the carrot and diced the rest. Last night I grated all of the carrot. Neither time did I bother with the immersion blender. The first time I forgot the lemon at the end and this time I remembered – delicious both ways. Neither time did I add cilantro – I’m not really fond of cilantro. This recipe is fast, one pot and delicious!


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