Thursday, August 28, 2008

Food for thought

Feeling a bit defeatist and worrying over the health status of our friend Dan, I came across a timely entry on another blog that John turned me on to several weeks back.

(See the blog here at

The author wrote about a question that her mom had posed to her, essentially asking what would be on a list of things to do if you suddenly learned that you only had weeks to live. Kate's response was poignant, focusing on expressions of affection and concern for her children and spouse. I agreed with the importance of her ideas, and in my response added an item that would be featured prominently on my own "list"... writing out a collection of family recipes for Una.

Food plays a central role in our lives, and an especially emotional one for me. I sometimes joke that for us, "food equals love", but it truly does. I show my love and respect for my husband and daughter by doing my best to create meals for us to enjoy together. Mom and Dad host us for dinner every Sunday, so no matter how hectic our lives get, we have a day to gather and enjoy one another. When someone is born, we cook. When someone dies, we cook. It's what we know how to do.

I will never be a "skinny minnie" - there is just too much to lose (figuratively and realistically) in denying myself the pleasure of cooking and sharing with abandon. If I love you, I'll cook for you. Doesn't everyone feel that way? How can you take care of someone if you don't feed them? I don't know, and hope I never know, what a house with a sparkling-clean and oft-empty kitchen feels like. It must be cold.

John and I planned a small "feed the patient" get-together for Dan and his family last weekend before he was scheduled to have serious surgery this week. Mom and I made some wonderful things, and I feel comforted knowing I did what I could to help warm the soul (and the belly) of a dear friend who is facing his own crisis, even if he was the only person who was able to share the meal with us. I remember my grandfather saying that a bit of extra weight was simply good insurance to carry around - everyone needs "reserves" in case they get sick. I'm sorry, Dan, that I didn't get more of a chance to help you put some meat on your bones - but I'm not going to waste another day feeling badly because I have more than enough in "reserve" - of food, laughter, caring and affection (and rear end!!) - to go around.

Monday, August 25, 2008


A morning at Baker's Beach: Zero dollars

Lunch from Lees: Twenty dollars

A sail through Westport Harbor aboard Ruddy Rye: Priceless

What a fantastic Saturday I had. While it started off with a huge headache thanks to a bit of over indulgence from Friday night, we managed to hit the beach by 10am. It was an absolutely gorgeous day. Even the life guard mentioned it was a 10. Una had her usual fun at the beach, although was not interested in getting into the water above ankle depth. She was content climbing on Nana and digging in the sand.

After the beach it was time for lunch and a grocery run was in order. More about the grocery run and reason later.

I'm sure you're not interested in my every hour recap of my weekend life, but I wanted to set the stage for the last half of the day. Plus, you can't play on the MasterCard theme without providing at least some details of the events.

Anyway, Gramps two years ago purchased a small sailboat at the Mass. Maritime Academy's yearly auction. He was able to launch the boat last year, but because of a failed engine, never really got to sail the boat. This past Fall and Winter, along with this Spring, Gramps has been diligently scraping, painting, re-fiberglassing, and whatever else it took to get the boat shipshape. He also enrolled and completed a sailing class in New Bedford. Gramps has a passion to learn. He never takes a new endeavor lightly. He is now probably more skilled as a sailor than those with many years of experience. He even baffled his sailing instructor (probably someone half his age) with his questions and knowledge of sailing terminology.

We launched Ruddy Rye about three weeks ago. It was quite an experience as the boat had no motor yet, and the day we launched there was a strong current. (BTW: the pictures shown here are actually from last year's launch.) Regardless, we got the boat docked. Now it was time for Gramps to find the motor that would be necessary if he was ever going to get anyone to sail with him. Two weeks ago he found the motor he wanted and he got it mounted. With the addition of the Town of Westport boat sticker, he now had a legal and legit sailboat ready to ply the harbor. Nana was convinced shortly after the installation of the motor to accompany Gramps on a "motor" run through the harbor. There would be no "sailing" just yet. So, you can imagine that Gramps was chomping at the bit to get on the water under sail. Saturday afternoon was that time and I was the lucky crew.

While I love writing this blog, and I know some enjoy how I write, I know I will not be able to adequately explain just how much Gramps and I enjoyed the inaugural sail aboard Ruddy Rye. I'll do my best just the same.

We motored away from the dock and down river just a bit to an area just off crack rock. During the ride Gramps pointed out the main, the jib, the halyard, the centerboard, etc. Despite my 21+ years in the U.S. Navy, I never took to sailing. I've probably only been on a sailboat three times in my life. The first experience left me blue - I think literally. The second I was more awestruck by the competency of the helmsman as he maneuvered a Shields through the mooring field in Newport Harbor. The third, was a pleasant ride around Newport/Jamestown harbor with our good friends Robin and Marvin, but due to mechanical problems it was mostly motor assisted (a good time none-the-less). Since that last sail Sally and I have purchased our own motor boat and I've become accustomed to the whine of the engine (when it's running, but that's another story which would make this blog way too long). Anyway, Gramps and I reached "Crack Rock". I handed over the main sail halyard and prepared to "hoist the main". He cut the engine, dropped the rudder, and we hoisted the main. Suddenly we were on the move without a sound. We dropped the centerboard and Gramps with tiller in hand, guided us towards the West Branch of the Westport River. As we cruised through the harbor Gramps explained theories of sailing, how to gauge wind direction, etc. We also both just took in the serenity of sailing. Ruddy Rye is only 17 feet in length so it's not a big sailboat. When seated in the boat your almost at water's level. The sounds were simple; the lapping of the waves against the hull, the flutter of the sail as the wind turns from point to point, the chirping of the sea birds who's flight path we were crossing. As Gramps said, "Aren't the sounds great? No engine noises. Is there anything better?" Probably not. It was a truly relaxing way to be on the water. While I was just crew and along for the ride, I could tell Gramps was enjoying his experience as well. He had the added bonus of feeling the boat with tiller in hand. I know it was relaxing for him as well.

We approached the harbor side shoreline and it was time for a tack. Tack we did and Gramps said let's put up the jib. I grabbed the jib halyard and hoisted away. The jib filled with air, and it was like the boat hit 5th gear. As Emeril would say, "We kicked it up a notch". It was really while under said with both the main and the jib that you could feel the power a light wind can create. It was thrilling. Gramps guided us through some beautiful ocean going sailboats. I'm sure they have their pluses in being able to travel to distant places, but I'm hard pressed to think the experience would be any better than the one I was fortunate to experience on Saturday afternoon.

Thanks Gramps. And, Nana the next time Gramps invites you for a sail you should take him up on the offer. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.


I mentioned earlier more about the grocery run. We needed to get all the fixin's for a good New England Clam Chowder. An old boyfriend of Sally's, and now a friend of mine, too, is scheduled for some surgery on Tuesday. I won't go into details, but surgery is a scary proposition. Sally wanted to show her support by having Dan and his wife to dinner on Sunday. She also thought it would be nice to invite some mutual friends to share their support, as well. It was all very last minute. It turned out to just be Sally's folks and Dan. Others wanted to join us, but schedules just did not permit it. Our thoughts and prayers are with you Dan.

My thoughts and prayers are kind of stretched thin right now. The wife of a co-worker of mine is facing some serious medical issues. Steve and Cathy, my thoughts and prayers were out there for you, too.

Any readers of this blog so inclined, please keep Dan, Ginger, Cathy and Steve in your thoughts. I know they'll appreciate it and I will, too.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Summer, Where Did You Go?

I was able to get out at lunch yesterday and enjoy a cool Summer day. It felt more like Fall. They even mentioned on the weather yesterday morning about it feeling like Fall. Where the heck did the Summer go? I know, I know, we've not even reached the "unofficial" end of Summer with the Labor Day weekend. But, when I pass daily the sign at the high school that classes begin in less than a week, I can't help but feel Summer is coming to a close.

We've had the good fortune to actually have a really nice Summer. Lots of time at the beach in Westport, work and play in our backyard, Sundays at Nana and Gramps for dinners on the back deck, and drinks on the deck at The Back Eddy. Oh, and who can forget our great vacation to Westport.

While the Summer has indeed been great, I've missed a few things. Not one round of golf, not one cast from the rod, and only a couple of trips on the boat. I'm not complaining (well, I'm complaining about how the boat has run yet again this year) as time with family and friends have been great. I've enjoyed tremendously watching Una at a point where she can really enjoy outdoor activities. If you read this blog regularly you already know he just loves the beach. And, she loves anything to do with a playground. Saturday night Sally didn't sleep well so when Una awoke at 6:22am (yes unfortunately I noted the time when I crawled out of bed) I got up with her so Sally could sleep. After a couple episodes of "Blues Clues" I thought Una would enjoy a walk. We made it down to the park at the end of Blackstone. We drive by this park often and a few months ago when Una first discovered swings, that was all she'd say as we passed in the car. I thought she'd enjoy some time on the swings, but found that she also enjoyed climbing to the top of the "big kids" slide. No little four step slide for Una. Noooo...she needed to climb the one that was probably ten steps and a foot over my 6'5" high head. She climbed with ease, stood at the top (the most nerve-racking) and then proceeded to sit and slide down. She slid slowly thanks to the rubber soled shoes she had on. At the bottom, turn and run for the stairs. It was a fun time. Did I mention that I found not one empty plastic juice bottle, empty frozen ice container, or any used diapers? (If you don't get that you missed my Aretha blog). Bravo to those that use this playground. Now, how about the Providence Parks Department doing something about grading so that the walkways don't become impassable for strollers due to mud with the slightest hint of rain? Oh, and can you turn on that lovely Art Deco fountain? Wouldn't that be an enjoyable site for local residents? (Wait: in searching for a link for the fountain I found this blog. Seems I'm not alone in my desire to see this fountain operating again.)

With Summer coming to a close Sally and I have our eyes set on a trip to Philly in September to visit Grammie. Jeff, Jen and Emmett will be visiting, too. We can't wait to see them. Una's all excited to see her cousin. Then October has another trip to Philly when my folks are there for a trip they are taking. Sally and I are also looking forward as Summer winds down to getting some things done to the house that we've not found the time to do with busy Summer schedules.

So, Summer you might be leaving us, but thanks to great family and friends, life is good no matter the season.

Talk at you all soon...John

Monday, August 11, 2008

Stealing your line Aretha

Una and I had the good fortune to have some quality time Sunday morning and we decided to hit the playground(s). Sally had an appointment in the South Side of Providence. Since we were unsure of the length of her appointment, we decided to stay close by so we could swing back and pick her up when done. Thus, Una and I set out on a ride. Two blocks away we both spotted it at the same time...From the back seat came, "paygown". That would be playground to those uninitiated in Una-speak. We passed it, but I made a mental note of where it was as I was sure we'd end up there. Two blocks later we passed another playground, this one even larger than the first.

After cruising by one of my favorite South Providence sites (City Farm) we pulled up to the first playground we had passed and I was a little discouraged that the area for small toddlers was sand filled and not the new rubberized material. We had planned to go to breakfast after Sally's appointment and I didn't want Una to get too dirty. We walked into the playground nonetheless. We were greeted by a host of empty plastic juice bottles, empty plastic sleeves which formerly held frozen flavored ice, a couple of empty glass bottles...oh, and the lovely USED Pamper next to the teeter-totter. I carried Una to the swing and she swung for awhile. As I pushed Una thoughts of a blog raced through my head. I was pleased to see such a nice playground in the inner city, but disgusted by the state of it. I was torn as to how to properly voice my outrage about its state without offending someone. I put the thoughts aside and concentrated on enjoying the time with Una. We finished the swings, headed for the slide (six feet from the teeter-totter and the lovely used Pamper.) Una took one slide and I decided it was time to go. We could hit the other playground two blocks away. Una was NOT happy about leaving. Unlike me who focused on the filth, she focused on the fun items in front of her.

We arrived at the second playground which was more impressive than the first. Sponsorship signage abounded. Terrific. Donors thought enough to establish a modern playground in the inner city of Providence. It was one of those nice commercial grade Little Tike playgrounds, with the slides, rock walls, swinging bridges, rubber covered stairs just right for little toddlers, and the cushioned recycled rubber base should such a little toddler take a header. It was lovely...

Except for the graffiti written all over the plastic fire engine Una wanted to play on. I'm sure [fill-in the blank] is indeed hot and can provide a good time, but neither Una nor I really cared. I'm sure the next seven year old who can read will have wonderful questions for their accompanying parent. I was disgusted. In case you're not aware I HATE GRAFFITI. It seems to be everywhere in Providence. Even our new "I-Way" (relocation of a major highway interchange) is plastered with it before it's even finished. What a nice greeting to those visiting Rhode Island for the first time. I digress. I immediately thought of my youth and about how I treated things that were not mine. My parents instilled in me at a young age that you respected other people's property. Perhaps I was naive, but all I knew of graffiti when I was young was from pictures of NYC subway cars. I can't recall or imagine writing such vulgarity on a wall or a plastic fire engine designed for those not yet 3 feet tall. I thought about my youth and what might be synonymous with today's graffiti. It's a stretch, but all I could come up with was trying to carve JS + [some girl's initials] in a heart on a tree while camping when I was 12. I say"trying" because my little pocket knife was never sharp enough to make a dent in some majestic Ponderosa Pine. It's the thought that counts, though.

So, Una climbed, slid down the slide, crossed the swinging bridge (she's got my genes in that regard as the swinging bridge was one of my favorite things to run on at Disneyland). She had a grand time while I noticed more empty plastic juice bottles, empty plastic flavored frozen ice thing-a-ma-jigs, and the rest of the graffiti. No used Pampers here. In their place, however, was the nice 30-something gentleman in his bathrobe and slippers. I fully expected him to flash us, but he didn't. Instead he deposited his ass on the bench right next to the commercial grade Little Tikes structure Una was enjoying and lit up his wacky tobacky.

Come on Una...time to go.
"All I'm askin' is for a little Respect" and we're not finding it here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Time. Where does it go?

It's been awhile since I've been able to find the time to post. Work has been quite hectic and my normal lunch hour time to write has been lost. I uploaded a few pictures last evening in the hopes that I could at least get something out there today.

Sally and I recently took the RIPTA ferry from Providence to Newport. This was an excellent and fun outing that our Office Manager (Robin) at work set up as the firm's Summer Outing. The plan was to take the ferry to Newport, enjoy the day in Newport with the Black Ships Festival ongoing, then ferry back to Providence. The event was planned for a Saturday in July which just happened to be in the midst of a five day heatwave. Knowing Una would not enjoy 8 hours in the stroller in Newport in 90+ weather, we decided that Nana and Gramps would get to enjoy Una for the day and Sally and I would enjoy some alone time.

We left Providence about 8:30am on a HOT day. Knowing we were going back to Westport to get Una that evening, we left a car overnight in Newport. Once we arrived in Newport we enjoyed hitting a few shops (contributing to the local economy, of course) and seeing many of the historic homes in the downtown hill area. (You'd think having lived in Newport for many years I'd know what that district is called, but I don't.) Anyway, we wandered around a bit, hit the outdoor Black Ships Festival, enjoyed a Dell's and then decided to take comfort in the air conditioned car we had left in Newport. While driving around Newport to Ocean Drive we noticed a sign for an auction going on at Fort Adams. We love a good auction so we decided to take a look. Five hours later we left with a backseat full of nautical prints and paintings. Having been in the Navy for 21+ years, I enjoyed seeing all the old nautical memorabilia. The auction was a benefit for the Newport Museum of Yachting and much of the 500+ items were donated by local Newporters or the NY Yacht Club (Headquartered in Newport). They picked an odd day for the auction since it seems that most of the Yachting Museum members who live in Newport were out for some kind of sailing regatta (we saw about five America's Cup boats leaving Newport Harbor as we arrived in Newport on the ferry.) Their loss was our gain. There probably were only 30 people at the auction, thus the bidding was not all that intense. All it all it was a great time. I now have a great print of the USS Constitution for my office wall.

Sally and Una have been able to spend lots of time at the beach with Nana this Summer. I usually get to join them on the weekends. Here's a recent pic of Una enjoying destroying a sandcastle. (Yes, the red tide was bad that day, but it's the first time this year. 100 yards to the left and the water was fine.) Una just loves the beach (she is her mother's daughter, after all.)

Here's a cute picture of Una washing her face after making a mess. Thanks Nana for showing her how to pick and eat wine berries. :-)

And, lastly, here's a picture from last evening while I was doing some gardening. Sally snapped this photo as Una smiled for the neighbor Mrs. G.

Posted by Picasa