Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sandy in pictures

The Star Ledger, which only published online yesterday, since its offices were moved three times as they were flooded and lost power, came out with a special paper edition today.  I notice that they never credit the newspaper carriers with the heroism of actually delivering the paper today, so I hereby do.

Clearly the writers had a pent up need for dramatic newspaper pictures and prose,nonetheless, they did a good job of showing readers from other parts of the state what they hadn't been able to know about before.  If you lose power, you don't have television, and many people lost phone service, internet access, and cell service, too.  Handsome Son still has no landline phone service, intermittent cell service, but we have been emailing when I had a wireless signal, which was now and then. He's fine, as is the elderly neighbor he kept an eye on.  And, aside from minor damage to a chimney, so am I.

I notice that the newspaper still carried a sales insert, though!  Sandy can't beat Kohl,I guess.  It's ironic that the people in the teeth of the storm had less information that people on the other side of the globe who were able to see maps and information and pix on television and online.

We are warned to conserve water now, since a lot of the pumping stations are running only on generators, which may lose power before mains are restored.  I will do my bit by failing to do my laundry.  Nearby Princeton is pretty much a war zone, 80 per cent of people with no power, many roads closed with fallen trees and wires, almost no traffic lights at intersections, my friends incommunicado, no phones, no power, no way for us to reach each other.  I just pray they're all okay. Sad news in the paper, an acquaintance killed by a falling tree at his home. 

The newspaper pictures included this one, of the street I drive down to the labyrinth.

I've become acquainted with all the emergency communication sites to try to keep up with local conditions, mainly which roads are closed, which is a lot of them. I noticed a lot of cars passing the end of my street on the road which takes you  from one town to another, and discovered that it's practically the only open one, and I wonder how far they can get before they meet barriers.

Today I don't know how I feel.  Relief from great anxiety, sadness over the losses, gratitude for all the friends and acquaintances making sure I'm okay,  great mix of emotions.  HS is coming for dinner tonight, since our restaurant plans, made before the storm, seem less doable now, and he lives close enough that the roads are safe between there and here.  It will be good to have his company.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sandy aftermath

The people got lucky, no deaths nor injuries that I know of in this area. The trees were not so lucky. These casualties are all around my house. They say that high winds are Nature's broom, sweeping out the weak and dead branches. Well, I hope she feels this is a job well done, oh well. My patio cherry tree survived thanks to the major pruning job.

Apres le deluge.....

First of all thank you so much all the people who emailed and commented and kept on checking through the storm. It was pretty horrific, the shrieking wind and sheets of rain and the house groaning and banging like an old ship, but power only flickered, never lost it, very very lucky. We're a little island of power in a sea of darkness. The emergency notification system of the county worked well -- I got cell calls to tell me the town was in emergency mode,and then at 2 a.m., gawd, a call to let me know the police had lost their phone service! But as of this morning, I see little to no damage,amazing, really, and I think we can exhale. Still windy and a bit of rain, and we have to watch out for local flooding as always. But my son is fine in his neighborhood,and we are in ours. Phew! but do spare a prayer for all the poor folks with terrible damage and no power and no prospect of it any time soon.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Disaster preparedness, a.k.a. Amateur Night at the Bijou

So the confluence of the hurricane and a nor-easter are almost upon us.  State of emergency throughout the state (and the rest of the northeast US), evacuations of coastal towns, local business and library  closings and events postponed.

Our neighborhood has been scurrying about trying to buy batteries, lots of luck there, water (why? why? we have great tap water, I put a gallon of it in the fridge), vital supplies such as a counter top for his mother's house, well, that just got among the neighbor's emergency list, and clear the decks, literally. 

I brought in my summer chairs for the Ds to guard,

tethered the patio table to the fence, removed all the bird feeders, suet thingies, S hooks and other stuff that would not be good blowin' in the wind. 

And pruned the wild cherry on the patio in the desperate hope of saving what's left of it after two previous storms took most of it away. And helped the neighbor, a newcomer to the notion of loppers (secateurs to brits) and my nice little Japanese folding pruning saw.  He was hugely relieved at realizing that 1. there are actual tools for doing what he needed and 2.  I owned them and offered to lend them any time.  They're the neighborhood pruning tools, really, though I own them.

He was torn between his wife insisting he get rid of the entire tree (half of which is mine) and me, begging him not to take off to much because of the birds.  We ended up with a fairly bald tree but with any luck not too much foliage to catch in the wind and tear off the branches. 

She, like a good Indian wife, reminded him pretty steadily that if he had kept up with the pruning and cleanup he wouldn't need to do all this at the last minute...and I kind of put in a word for him when she said he should have got the tree people in, to the effect that he and I saved them about a thousand dollars with a few minutes' work.  She liked that.

Another neighbor and I skated down the block and secured all the furniture for an older friend visiting his wife in the longterm care, and anyway he has a bad back. He'll come home this evening to wonder how his table got upside down, and all his chairs moved back to the fence where they won't fly through his patio window.

Meanwhile, back at my own homestead, I let the water stay in the bathtub from my shower, which yielded a few inches of greywater, fine for flushing with if it comes to that.  The other bathtub I thought I'd put clean drinkable water, just an extra over what I'd put in the fridge, only to find that the plugger wouldn't.  It's a push on it, it pops, type, which stays down sneakily until there are a few inches of water in the tub, then jumps up, haHA!  I tried to remove it entirely, turning and turning uselessly, and gave up on it.

Then  my handyperson friend stopped by to tell me it's her birthday, a big one, she isn't too keen about it, and accepted a cup of Oolong while we both moaned.  After admiring the latest needlework, and listening to my complaints about the bathtub, she said, oh shut up, I'll fix it, come on, show me.  And with one deft twist she yanked the thing out.  I claimed loudly that I'd loosened it up so she could do that...and I tossed it.

Now a replacement stopper I found in the kitchen is evidently holding up.  So this is good.  Neighbors with grills have said cooking is no prob if by chance natural gas goes out (very very rare occurrence), and people with firewood will hand it out if heat goes and we feel cold.  But the temps are in the fifties, so even with high winds it won't get all that cold, and with luck, rain but no ice.

Anyway, if there's sudden radio silence from here, chances are it only means the power is out, and the wireless attached to it, don't ask me how this works, has gone with it. And I'll check in as I can.

Around here the mantra at the end of every storm warning and email is: Stay home.  Stay dry.  Stay safe.

So, everyone, do that.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Yet another last lovely October day.

I wonder, if I keep saying this, will there be more?  each time I think, ah, the last lovely October day, up pops another. But we are in for a spectactular nor'easter in the next few days, the edges of the latest hurricane, so I hope what's left of  my cherry tree doesn't finally bite the dust.  I've moved the glass table into the groundcover, which will hold it pretty well in place.

Meanwhile, back on the walk, lovely trees,

and a noise underfoot told me that late bees are still hard at work harvesting from the wood sorrel,
and there's smartweed still blooming like mad near my gate.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Chickens, good ones, home to roost..

So a couple of days ago I was talking with a friend about the long ago petcare service I had, the one that supported my life in art, and was rudely interrupted, in fact, crushed by the 9.11 attack (my clients were in corporate travel, and the attack finished off all corporate travel for over a year), anyway, first time I'd thought of that in ages. 

Then yesterday I ran into another old friend, hadn't seen her in years, thought she'd moved out West, and she, or rather her cat Cookie, (my notes on her included: favorite toy a bit of string, never ever let it get thrown into the garbage)  happened to have become a petcare client in the course of time.

When I had to close the business, among the few remaining clients there were three who either were or had become my friends, and were distraught about who else they could feel okay about having in their houses in their absence.  All were midlife successful single women with single family homes. 

So I thought for a minute and then suggested to each of them that if I gave them all each other's contact information, they could meet and figure out a sitting exchange -- all had cats, fair exchange -- and to my surprise, it worked out.  Since I knew all of them and vouched readily for how they did things, and how careful they were of privacy, that was better than a reference.

So when I ran into one of them, as I said, yesterday,  cat Cookie long gone, but her replacement Cassie in place, I asked about the others and found to my amazement that eleven years later, the friendship and the petcare exchange was still holding up. In fact one of the other clients was was even as we spoke on her way back from Oregon where she'd gone to escort the third client, with her two cats, one carrier per airline passenger, back to NJ.  Of course they all have different cats now, their lives being shorter than ours.  And typically, I asked about Rani and Rajah, the original cats, before getting the news of C. the owner, and her return to NJ.

You never know what you set in motion when you do an innocent arrangement!  next up will be a reunion to which I'm going to be invited!  more news will follow at that point.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Skies changing with the season

That time of year when suddenly the evening sky goes all Disney on you.  Suddenly the house is full of pink light, you rush out with a camera to admire and for a few minutes you're drowning in color.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

October great name for a month. Or a pet.

I like the name Toby for dogs, had one years ago with that name, and used to tell people it was short for October.  I still remember funny Toby, the yorkie mix, and his antics.  A true clown.

But no dog in my life now, cats rule!  and today's walk, unimpeded by any dog, was great in the cool sunshine, squirrels wildly busy digging up stuff and eating, and burying other stuff, wonder if there's any method at all in this.  And wild asters blazing away.  And fungi exploding all over the place. And Canada geese lying through their beaks talking about migrating.  They fly as far as the next pond, then land with great drama and talk about what a huge trip they made...

All this was after a great lunch and movie at a friend's home, the only way we could see the Marigold Hotel movie together, for various logistical and health reasons.  Great fun, and Maggie Smith was as usual worth the price of admission.  Home again, and friend G. from Mumbai stopped in to chat and drink tea and eat some of the dessert I'd brought home from the lunchorama, and talk about Jaipur, the location of the movie. She thinks we should also see it together -- that would be fun, she being fluent in Hindi which is heard quite a bit in the movie.  I'm number 57 on the waiting list at the library, so this too could happen, but not very soon.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Election season picks

No, not candidates, it's a secret ballot and I already voted.  Too bad for the local candidates still trotting around and leaving little notes and encouragements, their fated is decided, at least as far as I'm concerned.

No, these are picks for interesting stuff I've been reading and watching, as a pleasant contrast to the hysteria of even the public broadcasters in this season.  One is a little book written by Cicero's brother, yes, that Cicero, when he was running for pro consul against heavy odds, as a nonaristocrat in ancient Rome where Family Was Everything, but was a brilliant lawyer with many grateful clients.  Wonderful treatise How To Win Election, one side in Latin, which I struggled a bit with, the other side mercifully in English, very well rendered, and it shows every step of the campaign strategy practiced to this day at all levels from municipal lightbulb changer to President.  Things like: find your opponent's weakness and harp on it. find people who owe you a favor and call it in, promise you'll try to work for their interests after election if they'll vote for you, time enough to explain that after all, once you got into office, it just wasn't feasible....great reading. I may have harped on this myself, but it's worth saying again anyway.  Heck, candidates repeat themselves all the time.

The other is an American Experience public tv production, on DVDs from the libe, naturally,  called First Ladies.  It's a series, of which up to now I've watched Dolley Madison, what a cutup, and Eleanor Roosevelt.  Dolley was a genius, never realized this before.

She understood the power of the symbol.  When the brits were busy threatening to burn down the White House with her and her slaves inside it while husband was away losing a battle elsewhere, she instantly ordered that the things to be saved aside from the people were the official documents, and, most important, the portrait of George Washington.  When they couldn't get it out of the huge and heavy frame she ordered them to just bust  up the frame, roll up the portrait and get outta there.

After she saw the dox and the pic safely heading off in wagons to safety, she evacuated the house of all the people, and left all the other artwork and priceless furniture and artifacts, knowing she'd preserved the most important items.  Which she had. 

The portrait and all the dox, were pretty much the most significant things about the country at that time aside from the Liberty Bell which was safe in Philadelphia anyway.  But how many people would have thought of it? realized what a trophy it would make in the hands of the brits, back in London? and how it could work as a symbol to rally round again? My heroine.

There were even early photographs, taken of her in later life, very exciting to see, and poignant to see that old, widowed and nearly destitute, she apparently had one good outfit for public wear, which she wore bravely in all the pix.

Eleanor needs no intro from me, but I like to see that she knitted a lot in her public appearances, even waiting her turn to speak as Chair of the Dec. of Human Rights committee.  I'm guessing it was to keep her nerves under control, very calming activity.  I notice, too, that she knitted on dpns without looking, while she was conferring with Roosevelt.  She must have needed a lot of knitting at his death when she discovered that he'd been seeing Lucy Mercer again, that she'd been with him at his death, and that Anna, Eleanor and his daughter, not only knew all about it, but helped arrange meetings.   Seems foolhardy to do this to someone as big as E and handy with little pointed sticks..

Yet to come: LadyBird Johnson, Betty Ford and Nancy Reagan.  We'll see how the moderns stack up.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Ravioli rules!

So today I threw open the freezer door and hauled out the homemade pasta ravioli cases and the cut up farm tomatoes and the oregano pesto, homemade from my oregano on the patio, and the garlic and the chopped onion from the farm, and set to work on making ravioli.

The sauce simmered nicely while I worked on the other stuff, a base of olive oil, garlic and onion, and tomato paste and big chunk of oregano pesto, big bag of Jersey tomatoes cubes.

And the filling was ricotta, parmigiano flakes and an egg.  I made two sets of rav, one in half moon shapes, using a single round and folding over, the others the whole circle, just to see which I liked.  With the homemade pasta, the cooking is swift -- once they float in the boiling salted water, they're pretty much done.

Meanwhile, since I hadn't charged up the immersion blender and it was time to blend, I broke my long standing rule and poured the hot sauce into the regular blender instead, and remembered why I don't do this, when the top popped just enough, what with the heat and all, to decorate the surrounding area, including nosy old Duncan, always prowling for food, with a tasteful red polka dot pattern.  Easily cleaned, though, since in homemade sauce there are no food dyes, and those are the culprit when you can't get that spot off your blouse.

Pasta drained, halfmoons put in bowl, sauce with addition of some of the pasta filling added in at the last minute, I really liked that idea, shake of hot pepper flakes and shaved Parmigian, glass of Burgundy aged on the truck, and it was lunch.

For a while, that is, didn't last long. 

However, there's another bowl waiting in the fridge, the round ravioli, all sauced up and ready to heat tomorrow.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Field and Fen and Preserve

On what might just be a final great warm day this year (thirty degree drop before tomorrow), I walked on the Preserve, watching yellowrump warblers in a feeding frenzy on berries, and being watched by a herd of deer in the distance, in the beechwood.  They stopped, watched me watching them, decided I was no threat and eventually strolled on.  Then I noticed great shadows on a beech tree.

Coots on the lake bobbing up and down like toys, turkey vultures soaring around the sky on the updrafts, a little woollybear caterpillar all tricked out in a polar coat, maybe he knows something we don't, scooting at a terrific rate across the trail. 

Milkweed pods bursting and releasing their silk parachutes into the air.

Home for a cup of tea, a helping of raspberry filled chocolate square, and some stitching, another secret gift...this is slow work, nobody to hold her breath here!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Charlotte at work again, undaunted by rain

Look at these jewels!  of all artists and architects, the spider must be right up there!  and the little starlike flowers that echo raindrops.  Shot on my patio and out front a few minutes ago, between showers.