Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Most Beautiful Stove in the World

All summer this space silently weighed on my mind and tugged at my heart.My beloved thirty year old Waterford cookstove was missing. I joked that it was spending the summer at rehab camp. But it wasn't funny to me. It was a bit like my house was in a coma - lacking any life energy and seriously in danger. 

The trouble with cast iron (as my stove repairman repeatedly told me) is that it expands and contracts. Over its 10,000 days of heating my home and cooking my meals, one by one its parts loosened, its screws dropped out, bits of refractory cement turned up in my dustpan. From time to time I replaced worn out parts. I resigned myself to the fact that it became so leaky that it wouldn't hold a fire more than a couple of hours and I was using twice as much wood as I had when it was new.

Six months and $5,000 later, it's back! In one tiny detail it reminds me of the moment after Maggy was born when a sense of relief washed over me making me aware of how anxious I had been over the preceding months.

I expected it in August - or maybe September. But one after another, things went wrong in the repair process. Each new problem required another replacement part from Ireland. Is is possible that they don't have air freight in Ireland? When nights got chilly in October my subliminal anxiety edged its way into my consciousness. In November as I planned the Thanksgiving menu I could barely control my frustration.

Finally the stove's return was scheduled for November 24th - the day before Thanksgiving. The schedule didn't make me feel much better. There was still at least a 50-50 chance something else would go wrong. Tuesday the 23rd, as I drove home from work, I imagined the inevitable phone message waiting for me. Sure enough, the answering machine light was blinking. It was Angela asking if they could bring it Wednesday afternoon instead of morning and trying to reassure me not to worry. They absolutely would bring it Wednesday afternoon.

Wednesday I occupied myself with distracting chores all day. Mid-afternoon when the truck pulled into the driveway I was cautiously optimistic, skeptical, hopeful and doubtful all at the same time. I couldn't make small talk with Bob. After greeting him and pointing out just where the feet of the stove should go (even after six months of cleaning the floor, the marks where it used to stand were still there) I went upstairs to clean some more. Hours later, there it was in all its nearly new glory.

On the plus side, Bob charged me just what he'd estimated in August (twice what he'd estimated in June) tho' he said, and I believe, that he'd put quite a bit more labor into it than he'd estimated. On the down side, because of the paint and cement tempering and burning off, I couldn't cook our Thanksgiving turkey in it. Thank heaven for B's gas oven upstairs. Still, we did all our stovetop cooking on the Waterford and enjoyed it's warmth.

It was truly like watching the house awakening from a coma. And I was thankful. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Everyday Things

Years ago I read a cool book The Design of Everyday Things. In a modest way, it changed my life. I learned, among other things, that on doors in public places horizontal handles push out and vertical handles pull. It's hard to describe how much that simple concept has simplified my life.

Tonight I visited with a friend I haven't seen in years. She told me her daughter recently started a business in Human Factors consulting. Who knew that everyday things had become a "multidisciplinary field incorporating  psychology, engineering, industrial design" called Human Factors. And that this would lead to "World Usability Day."

I want to know more about this.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Latest Project

I'm torn between surprising Maggy and bragging about the latest DIY project. I'm betting that Maggy will be surprised when she sees this. And by Thanksgiving she will forget about it and still be surprised when she comes home.

I've avoided having guests for months because thanks to my four feline friends, my seventeen year old carpet is really, really embarrassing.

Taking out the old carpet was really the worst part of the project. This new wood product is a snap to install. It really won't allow you to do it wrong.

I like the new effect a lot! Can't wait to have company now.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I Love Summer

  • Sungold (very early, very sweet)
  • Snow White (sweet, juicy, refreshing)
  • Black Cherry (distinctive, rich flavor)
  • random green tomato I accidentally knocked off the vine
  • Sweet Chelsea (the red one in the back, sweet and juicy, big for a cherry.)

Saturday, August 07, 2010

The Reality Based Community

Two delightful rays of reality this week.

Mayor Bloomberg explains why construction of a Mosque near Ground Zero will proceed. We do not allow our government or individuals to interfere with each other's religious practices. Or with the lawful use of private property.

Federal Judge Vaughn Walker handed down a decision overturning California's ban on gay marriage. We don't allow a majority vote to deny human rights to a minority. Government's role in marriage is to record who is married and enforce laws that ensure that marriage partners are treated fairly. Individual religious beliefs may judge whose marriages are sanctified within a particular religion. But that is not the role of government.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

New Look

It's that time in summer when one welcomes a rainy day to catch up indoors. I should be balancing my checkbook. But Blogger has made it easier to change the blog template. So, here's a new look for you and an inspiration for me to write here more often.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Homegrown eggs and blueberries with Rosemary peasant bread from Wegmans. It just doesn't get any better.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


I dragged a few bags of stuff out of my "hoarding" room to Salvation Army last week. My reward for this virtuous recycling was a chance to browse in the Salvation Army store. I scored a summer jacket, a pair of camel colored Ralph Lauren jeans and four shirts, including a perfect color and fit linen shirt and a beautiful silk shirt with a twill stripe accent - all for $20!

Here's the favorite peach colored linen ready for work.

And here it is after a day at the office. I know how it feels.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Belated Happy Birthday

Belated Happy Birthday to Maggy. Part of the reason Maggy lives in New York is that she doesn't want to own a car. Still, even as a rental, this Mustang convertible added a lot to her birthday experience.

Here's one of the gifts she gets to keep: Bill's painting of pigeons - Maggy's favorite New York wildlife.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Open Door Policy

During nice weather I often leave the door open a bit so the cats can come and go rather than trying to keep track of who's in and who's out. I don't have a kitty door because I really don't want 'possums and raccoons coming in. While Belinda was away, I put a note on the door reminding Bill not to let the cats in. I patiently tracked the cats down each morhing and put them out when I left for work, secure in the knowledge that when I came home the house wouldn't smell like the litterbox and I wouldn't trip over a cat herding me toward the kitchen. On weekends I spent blissful hours doing housework without tripping over cats. Housework went faster 'cause there was no litterbox to clean, no new stains on the carpet, no chipmunk parts to clean up and hardly any cat hair on the furniture. I could even sit down for a break without cats trying to settle on my lap.

It's more complicated when Belinda's home. I work late many nights. She believes, as the cats do, that they should eat at the same time every day preferably at the very predictable hour that she gets home. She feeds then and naturally doesn't want to wait for them to finish eating and go out for their after-dinner business. So, she leaves the patio door ajar. I accept this because the roomful of moths when I get home late is better than cleaning the litterbox and the carpet. (I can't wait to get rid of that carpet.)

Last night when I got home just before midnight, I muttered to myself about the open door and the kitchen light on, gave the kitties a snack and fixed some dinner for myself. For a while it was two cats in, one out, four out, two in, one out, etc 'til I stopped paying attention. An hour or so later, when I noticed that they were all asleep within arm's length of my chair, I pushed one off my lap and went downstairs to close the kitchen door. There was a furry face in the door. As I mentally re-counted the cats I left upstairs I realized it's one of the two young racoons who come to vandalize the birdfeeders every night. It's hard to blame him. The cats hadn't finished their midnight snacks and the dishes are just inside the door. I've never been very nice to the vandals, so he still doesn't like me much. When I say, "Shoo" he goes. But, I need a new door policy.

Please don't lecture me about rabies. I understand. I respect this pair of racoons and, for the moment, they respect me, too. Getting in my car and driving to work every morning is no doubt riskier than my occasional, brief interacttion with the racoons from a polite distance. Still, I need a new policy.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Indigo Bunting

I associate indigo with the color of blue jeans. But when you see this guy in the garden, no need to check the bird book. In this neighborhood, it can't be anything but an Indigo Bunting. Listen to its song and learn more about it at the wonderful Cornell Lab of Ornithology website. Thanks to Belinda for being here to see it and for fooling with my unfamiliar camera to document it.

Sunday, May 02, 2010


Awkward pose for this stately Pileated Woodpecker. I've never seen one on the suet feeder before. Maybe he's feeding young and that's tempting him to go for the fast food.

Belinda calls him the prehistoric bird for his resemblance to a Pteradactyl. She's thinking of mounting a suet feeder on a tree so he can get at it more easily. I think he should have to work a bit for this fatty snack.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Monday when I was sitting on the deck, barefoot and wearing a tank top, I realized I've been clenching my teeth for four months. It felt great to relax and read a good book.

Yesterday when I noticed the apricot tree blooming I was worried that it was too cold and windy for the bees to be out. So, I was happy to notice that bees were busy in the apricot blossoms.

In fact, there were several kinds of bees.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Easter Decorations

Easter decorations got a bit out of hand. The amaryllis survived from past years. But I didn't pay much attention to dormancy or keeping the in the dark. So, they bloomed in their "normal" spring time. I remember seeing them in gardens in the spring in South Carolina.

Then I couldn't resist these small yellow lilies at Wegman's. $4 each and the bulbs cost nearly that much in the garden catalog. Of course, Bill brought me an Easter Lily. I found some daffodils and brought in some Forsythia to hang the eggs on. See Easter 2007 for closeups of some of the eggs.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The View From My Office Window

Some of my favorite things: icicles and snowdrifts.

The ice on the left is an icicle that's been growing for weeks. There was an office pool on when it would reach the ground. Can't say for sure it's on the ground yet, but it's joined up with the snowdrift under the window.

It was a challenge getting to work. By 8:15 we'd fed the animals and cleared the long driveway, but the County plow hadn't yet touched the road. Seriously. Not touched. It was 18" of fresh snow marred only by the tracks of one vehicle that had managed to drive by without benefit of the plow. By the time I was dressed for the office, the plow had gone by and, of course, filled in the end of the driveway.

I had interviews scheduled all day with applicants for our job opening. I admire the committment of the person with the 9:00 appointment who politely declined an offer to reschedule for 1:00 saying she'd be fine getting in to Dryden. I warned her I'd be a little late.

Monday, February 22, 2010

New York

Last Monday in New York. Lots of interesting people and discussions at the Association of Towns of New York State conference. There are more than 900 townships in New York and 1,600 people representing townships came together to talk about strengthening local government and doing good things for our towns.

It was nice to hear from Senator Gillibrand. Embarrassing to hear the AOT President inroducing her consistently pronounce the Senator's name "Guilderbrand."

Tuesday Morning in New York. At the breakfast meeting Senator Schumer spoke about all his efforts to save and create jobs in every imaginable industry - except agriculture and education, Dryden's two largest industries.

Very nice dinners and lunches and chats with Maggy. I'm glad to be back in Dryden. But I miss Maggy.

Friday, February 12, 2010

I Have Confidence in Sunshine

Why doesn't the word "confidential" have anything to do with the concept of "confidence?"

In my department we have job titles for "Confidential Bookkeeper to the Supervisor" and "Confidential Secretary to the Supervisor." Confidential is all about secrecy. I have to say, in local government, there's really not much room for secrets.

I'm in the process of replacing the Confidential Bookkeeper. I don't know which of us lost confidence in the other first, but it was a rapid downward spiral. I'm glad I can trust my Confidential Secretary (secretary - get it?) not to blab too much about how we're laughing at some of the resumes I've gotten. But bookkeeper? I think I want to trust him/her to be completely open.

I definitely want to have confidence in both my bookkeeper and secretary. My secretary told me yesterday that she remembers that in her interview I asked, "Is it ever okay to tell a lie?" Like many people, she thought maybe it's okay when someone asks, "Do you like my outfit?" With practice, she'll find ways to answer even those questions honestly and constructively.

I want to have confidence in my entire staff to cover my back. And I know that to earn their loyalty, I have to be sure they never have to lie to defend me. Idealistic? Yeah. But still a good goal.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Kitty on the Keyboard?

I can't think too much about what the cats are doing when I'm at work. They outnumber me four to one. It's like leaving four teenagers home alone. The news at the end of the day is never good. This is what my monitor looked like when I got home. Maybe they were working on their tax returns. But I'm worried about the Windows Diagnostic message.

Further evidence? I may be careless in many areas of my life, but I'm in awe of the friend who takes care of my computer. I don't spill stuff on the keyboard.

White has a reputation for sleeping on my desk. But I haven't seen him do it in a long time. This picture is from 2007.

The current suspect in the keyboard caper is Magda, who's been pretty weird lately. I've spent a fair amount of time trying to create special places for the cats: cushions, boxes, blankets, old t-shirts - all in an effort to keep cat hair off the furniture and my clothes. No luck. Magda insists on grooming on my treadmill and sleeping on my charger station.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Metaphor for Life

This is what happens. As soon as one bit is out of place, it's only a matter of days- sometimes minutes - before the whole system collapses. This is Magda thinking, "What the hell happened here?"

Sometimes I see the metaphor as continually trying to stuff ten pounds of crap into a five pound bag. It only recently occurred to me that someone keeps adding more crap to the pile when my back is turned. Stop it!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

When Bad Things Happen to Good People

My neighbor lost his house today. He's a gruff guy and he gives me a hard time every chance he gets. But that's not what comes to mind first when I think of him. I remember when he patiently brought my wandering horse home last spring, following the horse slowly and carefully with the red lights on his truck flashing.

Those red lights are meant to help his neighbors in quite a different way. He's one of the wonderful volunteer firefighters in Etna. This picture shows how we fight fires in the country. We have no fire hydrants. Tankers from all nearby fire departments - some ten miles away - line up to supply water. In addition to our own Etna Fire Department, I saw Freeville, Dryden, Lansing and Cayuga Heights trucks and rescue vehicles. I know other departments were standing by covering the stations of the departments at the scene.

I know there's no way to make this right for him and his family. But already planning to help in any way we can.

Friday, January 01, 2010


Who doesn't love a snowy day to celebrate the New Year? Two days earlier we were taking pictures of fog rising from the garden. Now this.

The snow was exciting enough to inspire Maggy to make a snow angel.

The real reason we were out there was to clean the barn. Maggy's thinking, "Same stuff, different day." Tho' this is a far cry from her Fifth Avenue office.

She's still the chic-est stableboy I've ever seen. Happy New Year!