Saturday, August 25, 2007

Pictures from the peach orchard

The peach orchard

George and I went to Smolak Peach Orchard in North Andover today. It was very hot, so there weren't a lot of people there and the fruit was just amazing. They had beautiful plums as well as peaches and we filled up a box for $20.00. I had never been there. The blue Italian plums were beautiful, but roped off with yellow police tape, because they are not ripe yet. I am hoping we can go back next weekend and get them as well.

The weather was 97 degrees and muggy as a swamp. The picking was replaced by fanning, as we stood in the shade and tried not to think about the sweat dripping down our faces. But it was worth it. We picked up a package of cinnamon doughnuts and brought them to our friends in Andover on the way home.

The peaches and plums taste just as good as they look, and I'm surprised we have not done this every year! It is going to be great to make a peach pie tomorrow.


Have a great day.

George and his beautiful granddaughter Lucy

Lucy and her parents came to visit last weekend, and I took this great picture on the deck. A couple of very charming people!

Friday, August 24, 2007


Tomorrow George and I are going to a peach orchard. We got the idea from family who brought a beautiful peach pie to our house. Now we're hungry for more! The weather is going to be hot and humid and close to 100 degrees here. I'm taking a hat!

Mother had a flood last weekend and her carpet in the back room was soggy and had to be removed and she had to have a new water heater put in the basement, the second one in four months! It has been a crazy weather week in lots of places.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Getting Things Done

I finished reading David Allen's book "Getting Things Done". Michael and I have had several discussions about this organizing system, and he taught me most of what I needed to know. But actually reading the book was one of the things on my list of "action" items, and I felt I really needed to read the complete book.

Last Christmas Michael and I had fun in a Staples buying me the organizer notebook, the blank pages, and getting my book set up for my lists. I worked with it for a month or so, and then let it slide. This weekend I finished reading the book and I'm going to start again. Starting over is a good thing, as long as you start at all.

Today I used the system called 43 folders, which is also called a "bring up" file. It is a term which has been around forever, but David Allen seems to think that it can't be improved upon. You make a folder for every day of the month, and another set for every month of the year. Thirty-one day folders and twelve month folders equals 43 folders. Then you file the pertinent materials for that day in the folder, and check it first thing every day and it "brings up" the items that need attention that day. It may not be a great system for actions that are important enough to act on immediately, but it works well when you have something that needs to be done six weeks or six months from now. Christmas cookie recipes can be filed under December, and when December first rolls around, there you are!

A big part of the book explains making a list of ALL the things that are important in your life that are pending, and separating them into groups of projects, action items, and resource materials. It is a great book, a great system to organize ALL your "stuff", and I'm ready to go!

Have a great day.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

But it's on sale!

George and I went to Lowe's last night to buy a new mailbox. The painters finished painting the house. As an added bonus, the contractor painted the old shutters that were in the garage and was able to put them up on the house. These are real shutters, with hinges, and they are green with a cut out of a pine tree at the top. They are 85 years old or more, and they are charming and wonderful. We are both thrilled to have the house looking so nice again. The painters trampled some of the plantings we had outside and raked over our snapdragons, but we will plant more next year, and it seems a low price to pay for such a job well done.

We were not successful at finding the mailbox we wanted, but I found a sale table with beautiful Waverly lamps in different styles and these charming flowered shades on sale. And the prices! The lamp base was marked down to $5.00 and the shade was $3.00. George had wandered off to the hardware department and when I found him I had two lamps and shades in the cart. He was surprised and a little confused about how we would use them. It didn't take me long to make a plan. My problem was that I wanted to buy another one, and I was pretty sure George was going to balk at the checkout, so I limited myself to two.

But I can't help myself. Today, I'm going back to Lowe's to get one more lamp. They are just too pretty and high quality to leave sitting there! I may not actually need them...but at that price they are irresistible.

Anyone need a lamp?

Have a great day!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Thanks for the flowers!

A beautiful bouquet of flowers arrived today from Michelle and Michael. They are beautiful. Thank you for the congratulations! It is turning out to be a very good week!!!!


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sunday morning

It is a far from quiet Sunday morning around here. The painters came! George has been planning to have the house painted for three years, and the paint has chipped and the gutters are rotten and need to come down. It is a big production, both work-wise and investment wise. Nothing is as valuable as real estate these days, and we are both very happy that the house is going to look so nice when they are finished.

In the meantime, Thunder is hiding. They are thumping against the walls and she is wondering if the end of the world is near. I am here, Thunder, never fear!

Have a great day.

Counting my blessings!

It is really really great to have a friend who loves making jewelry as much as I do. Connie came over on Friday to learn the technique for making peyote stitch beads. If you look near the center of the picture you can see the two beads were made standing side by side.

Over the past year Connie and I have been able to get together almost every week for a jewelry session, a gab session, or a bead-sharing session. We are both really interested in making jewelry and we are both really good at it, if I say so myself. With each other's help we have expanded our bead inventories and have learned several new techniques.

It is such a blessing to have such a great friend who is so much fun to be with and who loves beads as much as I do. As far as blessings go, Connie is right up there at the top of my list.

Making jewelry with my friend Connie

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Gotta Have It!

There is a saying that says: "she wants what she wants when she wants it." I had an attack of that yesterday and today I went out on tax free Massachusetts day and bought a new IPOD shuffle.

I went to the dentist last week and they gave me a tiny shuffle to listen to some great music. They fixed two fillings almost without me noticing it. My dentist likes music and he had some really great songs chosen. Needless to say, I feel in love with IPOD shuffles and had to have one. Fell in love!

I went to ITunes today and filled out my dance card with some wonderful music: Jack Johnson, Enya, Harry Connick, Jr. "NOLA", the music of the movie Wonderboys, which is a lot of Bob Dylan and Neil Young and some classic country. That's just for starters.

I downloaded four albums and some singles and have only used about a quarter of the space. The mind boggles!

I will be a commuter soon, and I'm looking forward to waiting for the bus and train with all this great music in my ears.

And my pink shuffle is so cute too!

Have a great day.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

My White Linen Night Ordeal

Before we left for New Orleans I did some research on events and musicians that would be there the same weekend we were. One event that I was excited about was White Linen Night, which is a gallery walk where everyone wears white linen and goes into galleries along a four block area on Julia Street. I brought along a special white outfit and George wore beige shorts and a white shirt. We had high expectations. It is a gallery walk that New Orleanians call a mid-summer party, and one that is supposed to bring people out in the slow days of summer.

We left our hotel about 7 p.m., even though White Linen Night started at 4:00 p.m. and lasted until 8 p.m. At 8:00 you needed to buy a ticket to attend the party with dancing afterward. I knew we were not up for that, but I thought that if we got there toward the tail end of the gallery walk, we would miss the crowds, find a nice place to sit and it would be cooler. Wrong.

We got off to the wrong foot, so to speak, when George said that we should walk there instead of taking a cab. He thought that it was about three blocks away from our hotel when it was actually more like nine blocks. That may not sound like much, but keep in mind that it was 90 degrees and the humidity is over 70%. Within one block I had started to drip. I had blisters from earlier walks, and I'm afraid I gave in to some kvetching and unladylike complaining.

When we got there I was already awash in sweat and unhappy, and there was a huge crowd! The galleries near us were so crowded you had to wait outside for awhile to get in the door. People were jamming into the buildings to get cool in the air conditioning, and viewing art was a low by-product. The crowds were so big that I saw the gallery owners and employees looking askance at everyone and they didn't look too happy to see us. Outside in the heat I saw people having drinks and talking with their friends and I was amazed that they could actually look happy when it was SO hot and uncomfortable! (You may notice in the photo above that two people are trying to make some shade by holding their square fans in front of their faces. They provided these fans as a souvenir, but we never found out where to get one, and they weren't going to help anyway.)

Not only did we not see any chairs or tables, we didn't see any food or drink tents either, and even walking a block through those crowds seems impossible.

While in one of the galleries I noticed a beautiful lady (I assume a New Orleanian, not a mere hot sweaty tourist like myself) beautifully dressed in expensive white linen and lace, with a lovely big hat and looking cool as a cucumber. I felt and looked like a limp rag. And I was getting madder by the minute.

We left that gallery and looked forlornly down the street to see if there was any relief or fun to be had anywhere. George was still trying to find something good in all this, because he knew how much I had looked forward to it. He was being gallant and nice and I was being a spoiled brat. Far from being a fun event, this had turned out to be a disaster for me, and all I wanted was a icy coke and some air conditioning.

Luckily, Mulates, the renowned Cajun restaurant, was two blocks away, and we marched in there and sat at the bar and ordered cokes and appetizers, mopped our faces with our handkerchiefs and waited to feel like human beings instead of rats drowning in our own sweat.

I knew New Orleans in the summer was going to be hot. I thought I was prepared for it. I packed my white clothes and my hats and was ready to join others who were not afraid of a little heat. But White Linen Night took the courage right out of me and left me whimpering for air conditioning.

Have a great day.

White Linen Night as pictured

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Traveling home from The Big not-so-Easy

I have a theory that one should always take flights in the morning and that the later you leave a city the more likely it is that you will run into delays.

Yesterday we left New Orleans around noon and went to the airport for our 3:00 flight. Thunderstorms in Philadelphia and other cities in the northeast had made a lot of planes late, and ours took off 80 minutes late. The pilots and crew did a good job of getting people boarded and we took off fast, but then we had to circle over Philadelphia while everyone on board wondered if they would miss their connections.

We need not haven't worried. When we got the Philadelphia all the gates were crowded with people and all flights were delayed about two hours. George and I discovered a flight leaving for Boston earlier and the kind gate agent got us on that flight. Sometimes airlines will not let you change flights once your bags have been checked, but US Air let us and George says he thinks that the people who make the really big decisions at airlines are the gate agents. The nice young lady got us on the earlier flight and we were home by midnight...about two hours later than scheduled but grateful to be home at all.

This morning we drove to Logan and picked up our bags. That process went swimmingly and George had the bags in just the amount of time it took me to circle the terminal. Hooray! Now we are home and we have our bags too. Awesome!

Our trip to New Orleans was great. It is a city of people who are hoping that things improve and several people welcomed us and told us to come back and to tell our friends. They want tourists to come again and enjoy the city like before. No one has to ask "before what?". It is also a city where people have been hurt. The dumpsters are everywhere as construction continues and businesses remodel after having been flooded. Several restaurants and a few museums are still not open although the French Quarter was not as hard hit by the hurricane. The trolley runs, just not as often. There are tourists, just not as many. We heard a lot about the Musician's Village being built by volunteers and how important it is that affordable homes are available for the musicians so that the music never stops.

When I asked one cab driver if there were plenty of places to live, he said, "Yes, but since the hurricane the prices for rent have gone up at the same time salaries have gone down." He said that employers want to pay minimum wage of $5.50 an hour, and that the people who left after the hurricane and went elsewhere have discovered that although it costs more to live, they can earn $15 an hour or more in other cities. In New Orleans people are hurting and jobs are scarce and everyone just wishes it had never happened.

Some tourists we met on the airport shuttle told us about the hurricane disaster tour (Greyline, $50 p/p for three hours) and the devastation they saw first hand. They said that the area that is now unlivable goes on a lot further than they imagined, and that it is clear that something should have been done a long time before this. On the way in from the airport we saw ruined houses with trailers in the front yard where people have been forced to live, and it is clear to me that living in a trailer as small as that for years is NOT an answer! FEMA had refrigerated trucks of ice that were just emptied THIS WEEK...two years they have been standing there. Millions of dollars of ice and energy wasted while people are in such need for homes and help. It is hard not to get mad.

Everyone talks about how the insurance companies refused to pay up and how many folks just lost everything. If you had flood insurance the companies said it was wind, and if you had NO flood insurance the companies said it was the flood that took your home. Either way, the premiums you paid for years were wasted along with everything else. FEMA is such a bad word you don't even use it there! I got the impression that people were willing to talk about the problems, but that they didn't want to ruin your good time. They wanted to show you what happened, but they also expected you to pay for the privilege. We asked our bellman if we could perhaps get a cab driver to show us just a bit of the flooded neighborhoods without taking the full bus tour and he said that there is a "standard rate" of $30 per hour with a two hour minimum." That's ok. They need the money. No one complains.

New Orleans is a city that has been hurt as much by the decisions of people as by the storm. New Orleanians are discouraged and I don't blame them. The headlines talk about the "big one" and how the Corps of Engineers still has not bolstered the levees enough that if there was another hurricane the same or worse would happen again. They say that this was NOT the big one, that this was a category 2 hurricane that passed New Orleans by...but that the failure of the levees made it a national disaster. Everyone blames FEMA, the Corps of Engineers and the bureaucrats for years of waste and mismanagement that almost ruined their city. No one can even imagine what would happen if "the big one" comes.

I'm happy that we went to New Orleans and did our part to help recovery in some small way. The city is open for business and the music, the restaurants, and the museums are open and ready for customers. The music is fabulous and the people are lovely and we felt safe and as comfortable as you can be when it is all happening at summer's slow boil.

We all just wish Katrina had never happened!

Have a great day.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Bye Bye New Orleans

Monday morning in New Orleans

The river is busy this morning. We have packed up and now we are leaving for breakfast at Petunias, a restaurant in the French Quarter that we hear has good crepes. We will have a long flight today through stormy Philadelphia and I don't expect the airlines to offer us much in the way of food. New Orleans has so many wonderful restaurants that you feel bad that you can't eat that much! We went to the Gumbo Shop for lunch on Saturday and had jambalaya and red beans and rice and shrimp remoulard. Delicious. And they only get one star in the guild book. Shame on them. It was delicious.

Service people in New Orleans are always very nice. From the maid in the hotel to the servers at the restaurants and the cab drivers, it seems to me that even though people must be tired, and that they are just doing their every day job, they don't take that out on the customer. Maybe it is just me, but I like almost everyone I meet in New Orleans.

Today we are going to a shop we know to find a fleur de lie t-shirt for me. That is my quest for the morning. Then it will be time to come back to the hotel and catch the shuttle to the airport. We have a layover in Philadelphia and don't get to Boston until 10 p.m.

I always feel bad when I have to leave, but I won't miss this humidity and heat. I think most of the country is suffering from high heat today (George and I still watch the weather channel wherever we go) and to New Orleans it is just another summer day.

We're off to breakfast. George is waiting.
Have a great day.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

My new necklace!

George took this to show how HOT it is here! I'm droopy but happy!

Enjoying the view

High heels everywhere

A tempting hat shop at the French Market

Musicians village

Everyone is excited about Musicians Village: 100 homes being built through efforts of Harry Connick Jr to keep the music in New Orleans. I think a lot of non-profit groups are involved in building these homes.

Our Sunday in New Orleans

Today we decided to try to take it easy. I brought four pair of comfortable well worn shoes and still managed to get a blister that made wearing anything but flipflops impossible. I think I was getting my payback for saying all those nasty things about how tired I am of seeing everyone in flipflops.

One thing I have noticed is that the young women in New Orleans are really dressing up, and I saw a lot of high heels. How they manage to walk on these cobblestones I will never know...but more power to them.

George wanted to take me on the free ferry to Algiers, so after a cafe au lait and beignets at Cafe du Monde, we walked to the ferry and took a lot of pictures. The Mississippi is brown and swirling with current. After the ferry we fell panting into the casino to see if they were giving away any more money. They were. I put in $10 and made $ we cashed out and used the money to cab it around today and save my poor blistered foot.

After a short rest, we went down to the French Market and the U.S. Mint to catch the Satchmo Summerfest performers. We were standing on the street with a thousand other people, enjoying the ambience and the music, when we realized that the Louisiana Pizza Kitchen was right behind us, they had a table with a window overlooking the stage, and we were hungry! We had a lovely late lunch of hawaiian pizza and ice teas and got to watch most of the set with air conditioning! Amazing.

We walked halfway back and decided to cab it again to the casino. This time they saw me coming and ceased handing out free bucks, but I managed to be there a whole hour and only lost $10, which is almost like making a profit.

Watching the New Orleans Saints on TV is mandatory when you are in New Orleans, so that is what we are doing this evening. The Saints offered hope when hope was hard to find after Katrina. From the stage this afternoon Kermit Ruffins asked for people to remember that they were all blessed to be here to enjoy the beautiful day and go Saints! Amen.

We leave at noon tomorrow but plan to get out of the hotel early enough to have crepes at Petunias, the best place for breakfast in the French Quarter so we've heard. And then it is off to the airport and the long plane ride home.

Have a great night.

Tripping down the Mississippi on the Natchez

One of three operating steamships on the Mississippi, the Natchez is a steam-driven paddle wheel boat that has a real calliope. The calliope plays from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. every evening as the passengers board for a two hour dinner cruise down the river. We took the boat cruise on Friday night to see the river traffic and get a educational narration about life on the Mississippi. We learned that the river is over 100 feet deep at the port of New Orleans, making the river a lively and busy port for ocean-going vessels. As our boat went by with the fabulous New Orleans jazz band playing, another ship's crew members danced along with the music and entertained us with their joie de vivre.

Our hotel room overlooks the river so I can enjoy the view of the river traffic day and night!

The steamship Natchez

A fabulous jazz band played on the riverboat

Greetings from The Big Easy

I love New Orleans! The people here are so great! We took the shuttle from the airport and our rather flummoxed driver left one of my suitcases on the van and drove off with it. George ran after them, but they turned the corner and were gone. I was a little more upset than I should have been and I talked with the bell captain at the hotel. He was SO NICE! He called the company, commiserated with me and assured me that everyone would work together to get my bag back to me.

We checked in and left right away for Riverwalk to get a muffaletta sandwich and an ice cream. We hadn't eaten all day and were famished! The olive salad that they put in those sandwiches make them very special! After that we walked to the steamboat Natchez and took a wonderful cruise down the Mississippi. The narration was educational and afterward the best Jazz band I ever heard took the stage and played for the next two hours. They were top notch, and nothing about the cruise was wearied or worn. It was as if we were the maiden voyage, although I'm sure that boat has taken thousands of trips up and down the Port of New Orleans. George went to get me a gingerale. He told me the bartender said, "we don't have gingerale, but I'll make you a New Orleans bar ginger - 7-up mixed with coke." And, it was delicious. Who knew.

When we got back to the hotel at 9:30 p.m. my bag was in the room. The next day the bell captain told me that the driver insisted on taking the bag himself up to the 11th floor lobby, and that he felt bad about taking off with my bag. That is just the way people in New Orleans are: they are caring and lovely people. Katrina is an awful memory and I get the impression that people are doing their best to get it behind them. Many people we talk to say that they are hoping tourists come often and stay long...and I hope so too!

We have had a lot of fun shopping in the French Quarter. New Orleanians know how to laugh at themselves too. One tee shirt read: I took a trip to New Orleans and all I got was this lousy t-shirt, a Cadillac and a plasma TV.

I was prepared for heat, but we are doing a lot of walking and sometimes the heat and humidity is almost overwhelming. We leave the hotel looking like human beings, and come dragging back with our hair wet and our clothes dripping. People are suffering together, and somehow, with the wonderful food and great music, it is all worth it!

Today I am bringing my parasol and we will go to hear Kermit Ruffins at the Satchmo Summerfest at 5:30. Yesterday we went to the World War II Museum and then to a crowded White Linen Night gallery walk. I was not prepared for the number of people, and the heat was relentless, so we retreated quickly down the street to the air conditioned restaurant Mulates to hear some Cajun music and eat the Cajun sausage boudin at the bar and then walked to the casino, where I won $80! THAT bit of luck rejuvinated us for another hot walk to the Acme Oyster House for a late dinner.

New Orleans in August is NOT for the faint of heart, but it is a city that is full of wonderful people, great food and fabulous music. We are having a really GREAT time!

Have a great day.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

New Orleans here we come!

We are going to have a great weekend. See you on Tuesday!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Going to New Orleans

Hats on vacation

George and I are having a great time planning our trip to New Orleans. We will only be there for three days. One thing we will do is take the free ferry to Algiers. I love rivers, and any excuse to get out there with the boats sounds good to me. As I look through all the things I'd like to see and do, I realize that we are not going to have enough time to do it all. After all, we want to relax and smell the coffee!

It is sad to read the guidebooks and hear that so many venues and museums are closed for renovations because of hurricane damage. It is a city in recovery. In a small way, I feel that we are helping by going there and joining the tourists who love the city and want to support the people who live there. The whole reason we are going is that we got such a good deal from Travelocity, and we are basically staying at a very nice hotel for free. It is off season because of the heat. I called the hotel today to request a river view and found out there is a rooftop pool, which sounds like fun, especially since the weather is going to be in the high 80's with 70% humidity. I imagine a quick dip in the evening will be just the ticket after a long hot day of walking around the city.

I am taking three hats and two umbrellas. I can't decide which hat to take so I am going to limit myself to three. The hats I want to take are crushable, and the sun is going to be brutal, so...why not? I plan on using the umbrellas as much for shade as for rain. I have one flowery umbrella to use as a "parasol" and a big black golf-sized umbrella for us both to use for thunderstorms. They fold up into tiny packages and are easy to carry.

My history with hats goes back a long time. I have enjoyed taking hats on trips since I was a little girl. My father used to complain that we would be going on vacation and there would be no more room in the trunk and here I would come with one or two straw hats that had to be packed carefully. Half the fun of going on a vacation is deciding which hat to bring.

Maybe I'm living in the wrong century.

Have a great day.