Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Back in the Garden, Back on the Road

I had a few days off, AND it stopped raining, so I took advantage of this by crossing a few things off my TO DO list:
  1. Vaccum the whole house and wash the floors. Check.
  2. Haul four weeks worth of trash, recycling and kitty litter to the transfer station. Check.
  3. Laundry and sheets- especially since Sorcha kindly left a dead, headless mouse in my sheets while I was away. Um- good kitty? Check. Also ironed.
  4. Visit the parents- coincided this with trash/recycling day and watered their garden. Check.
  5. Buy a lawnmower. Check. Sears Craftsman electric- I am nervous around motors and sharp spinning blades. I borrowed my neighbor's little B&D electric last year and it was just right for me. I looked for the same, but Home Depot just had some no-name, so I went with Sears- I know they fix and back their products. While I was out, I also hit JLPlum's, Christmas Tree Shop and a few other stores. Woo-hoo!
  6. Buy a lopper to trim out the forsythia bushes in front, the spirea next to the steps and the lilacs on the upper level. Check.
  7. Mow the "lawn". This is not actually grass, but a succession of weeds. The upper level was knee-high; the lower level not so bad because Ted had come over and mowed it once for me. Before I could do this, I had to weed- as in bend over and yank out by hand thousands of knee-high, tough-stalked weeds. I don't know what they are but they are not grass, they are pervasive, and they grow like crazy. I also had to...
  8. Trim out the forsythia bushes in front, the spirea next to the steps and the lilacs on the upper level.
  9. Trim out the dead lilacs; the last of the big hedge work we started in June. There were a lot of dead lilacs on the upper level. See?

That's a lot of stumps. Glad I had the lopper for the the smaller branches, but I used the shark saw on the bigger stumps. Still need to rake but first the lawn...
I also pulled an incredible amount of weeds:
There is still a considerable amount of gardening to do; I need to weed my stone garden out, & dig up a marsh rose in it that's trying to rule the world (I cut it back, but it needs to be eliminated.)
Lora came over and offered me a Rose of Sharon bush that will do quite well in place of the marsh rose (which is too thorny and send out huge long creepers that tear me up when I'm gardening). I am pretty excited, so I will do the perennial garden next. Because I knew I'd be digging and planting, "I was at Home Depot and could not resist these:
Fleabane, phlox and something else purple. All the deadly things in my garden have died off (gardening irony?), so I have some empty spaces. Also, between Ted's mow job and the avid helpers, my butterfly bush got yanked up. I'll need a few more fillers, and I usually get my plants at a nursery, but these will do fine for now and the price was right. So "I am off again on my travels, then when I return, I will finish the yard, if the creek don't rise and the Good Lord's willin'.
The kitties will be pissed- they love the jungle. Can you even see Sorcha hiding in the perennial bed weeds? Only if I move them...
Of course, Cujo prefers to just loll around in the catmint:
So the "lawn" looks at least more controlled. I need another extension cord so I can reach the very end, but the jungle has been tamed.

Hey, look! The Alzheimers fundraisers forgot to take down their sign from the race last week!
Is that more irony?
OK, I am all stinky and sweaty, so it's time to take a shower and get packed, and get ready for a cookout. I am so psyched, but I will have to leave it early to drive up to the place I am working tomorrow (more that 2 hours away from where I will be:( !)
But my jungle is starting to be tamed. Look at these rust-colored daylilies!
And the mallows! I found a scion growing in the center of the lower lawn, so I transplanted it to the corner and I hope it takes. This one is the mommy...
Even though I am far from done, I made a very good start, especially since I have to do it in spurts. My energy is not consistent, and I wheeze when I work too hard. But I am glad I got so much done, and I look out and feel satisfied. I think the day is fast approaching when I" will need to hire someone to come and do the yardwork for me, but for now, it's ok.

Monday, July 28, 2008

100 Books Meme

This one is a list of books. My star-rated favourites are in red, ones I have read in bold, un-read plain and plan-to-reads in italic.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen-I have read most of her works. The social strata and rules are complex and foreign but a love story is a love story and the bad guys get comeuppance. What's not to like?
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
- I have read nearly everything JRRT has written. I find his worlds intricate, complex and thorough, as well as just damn entertaining.
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte. Broody hero who plays mind games, but she still loves the guy.
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling-
see previous posts. Again- great world, great characters, rollicking storylines.
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee. Didn't really like it.
6 The Bible - I’ve read most of it. The summer I was thirteen, I decided to read it, unguided. I have gone back and read parts of it again. I think a study group might be nice to do someday.
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte. I didn't like Heathcliffe and Cathy was a wimp. Her sister was the better author.
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell.
I read and re-read this in my teens and found it chilling.
9 His Dark Materials-on my to-read list
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens.
Not my favourite Dickens book.
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott.
Every little girl born in the US in this century has read this. And cried over Beth. I liked Little Men better, though, and Rose in Bloom better still.
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy.
Still better than the movie.
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller.
Read this in my twenties, but it didn't make a huge impression on me.
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare - I’ve read many of his works , including the sonnets; my mom had a complete works volume in tiny print. Can't claim to have read all, though.
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier. I liked this one when in my teens.
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien.
See above.
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks. Never heard of it.
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger. Amusing, but not on my list of greats.
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger. Nope.
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell. Very good book. You can get lost in the drama. Scarlett was a total uneducated bitch, though- what a waste.
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald. It was interesting.
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens. On the list- one of the few Dickens books I haven't gotten to.
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy.
On the list- one of these days when I have time.
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams - laughed my fanny off over this series. Gotta love sci-fi!
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh. Nope.
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Nope
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck. Yup. Sad.
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll.
Yup. He had to have been on acid.
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame. Weird. And I usually like fantasy, but these talking rodents didn't do it for me. Brits can be very weird.
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy. Nope
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens. Good one, but Dora was a wuss.
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis. Loved them.
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis Hello? this is on twice?
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini. Just heard of it.
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden - liked it and enjoyed the movie too.
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne. This kind of crap makes me want to vomit.
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery. Loved everything she wrote.
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood - Atwood is a genius.
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan. Not yet.
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel. Not yet
52 Dune - Frank Herbert - read most of the Dune books but they just won't stop- now his son writes them. Enough already!
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons. Never heard of it.
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth.
Never heard of it.
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon.Never heard of it.
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens. A favourite- "tis a far far better thing I do..."
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon. Very interesting- I loved his perspective.
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Not yet.
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck. Sad.
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov - Gripping.
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt. Never heard of it.
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold -
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac - Nope.
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy. Had to read in college. Blocked it out.
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
Moby Dick-Herman Melville. Not yet, but a friend's husband write his dissertation on Melville.
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens. Yup.
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker. Yup. One summer I read a lot of horror. HG Lovecraft was my favourite. I swore I could hear scratching in the walls...
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett - Yup.
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson.
Never heard of it.
75 Ulysses - James Joyce - If I had a nickel for every time I picked this one up and tried to get through it… I did read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and was equally confused.
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath - Chilling. Loved it.
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome.
Never heard of it.
78 Germinal - Emile Zola. Nope.
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray. Nope.
80 Possession - AS Byatt.
Never heard of it.
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens. Loved it.
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker. Great story.
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro - nope.
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert. nope.
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry.
Never heard of it.
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White. Eh. Talking bugs and pigs.
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom. I don't think so.
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes- Arthur Conan Doyle. yup.
90 The Faraway Tree Collection.
Never heard of it.
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad. No but I adore "Light in the Forest".
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery. Wrote a paper on it in French class.
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks.
Never heard of it.
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams. Yup.
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole.
Never heard of it.
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas.nope.
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare. Yup. "What a piece of work is m an, how noble in reason..."
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl.
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo. It was a tough read, but I did it.

So- I read 56 of 100. However- two were counted twice- once as a series, once as a book. A big sprinkling of children's books- 13 (although the HP series is listed as one) entries.

I collect children's books, and I surely don't consider Pooh to be a must-read.

I do not fear to say I never heard of a book on the list. What standards were used to compile it? Are they books every educated person should have read? Books that most Americans most likely would have read? Am I a moron because I haven't gotten around to Salman Rushdie? I've read a number of other Nobel prizewinners, some of whom most Americans wouldn't recognize.

Maybe I need to make my own top 100 list.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bridal Showers and Thunderstorms

A friend's daughter had her bridal shower. This family was the first I met when I first moved to the house we bought, back in the days when I was a young wife and mother of three. I spent many mornings quaffing instant coffee at their table, and afternoons sucking down gallons of lemonade while the kids played in the kiddie pools. Our kids did scouts, CCD, swim lessons and BioMath together. As my boys got older and involved in more manly activities, we were together less but always stayed in touch. She drove the kids-hers and mine- to school in the mornings because she enjoyed listening to them. I made them take the bus. The girls and I spent a lot of time cooking things, eating them and playing games. We always cooked when we were together.
When their elder daughter had her shower, I wanted to give her something personal I thought she would enjoy. One of my own favourite wedding gifts was a set of bowls- bright, colorful and practical, so I thought of the giver every time I pulled them out. Her registry included cookie sheets, so I went with those. Then I had an idea. I saw a big baking bowl, so I bought that too, and went to the grocery store and bought a small bag of flour, and all the ingredients to make snickerdoodles, one of her favourites. (They loved rolling the balls of dough into cinnamon sugar...) I included the recipe on a card. She opened it, immediately got it and loved it. At her wedding, the favours were a cookie cutter with the snickerdoodle recipe attached.
So I needed to replicate the magic for daughter number two. Registry in hand, I wandered around the store, and all the good kitchen gadgets that were on the list were either fulfilled or not in stock. I went with a water filter that she would use every day, and hopefully think of me once in a while. I was blanking on the personal part when all of a sudden I had the idea.
Her parents went to a wedding and I had the girls for an overnight-she was eight or nine. A sudden thunderstorm moved in and she panicked- she was terrified of thunder. There was only one cure for thunder- Rice Crispy squares. We got her distracted stirring melting marshmallow, and the next thing you know, the storm was gone, the stars were out, and we were all snacking on slightly burnt bars. She had braved it out, she was ok, and we had a rousing game of Pictionary before they trouped upstairs to bunk out in sleeping bags with the resident ghost.
So today, she opened her card and read it and called out "I know who this is from..." There was a bowl from her dish set containing a bag of marshmallows, accompanied by a box of Rice Crispies. She proceeded to tell everyone there the story...
"Didn't we burn them?" asked her sister.
She got a lot of lovely things, and a lot of gifts that were equally as personal. We all had a nice time watching her enjoy her gifts and acknowledging every person there.
People were milling about and chatting as the party wound up. The sky got darker and it began to pour, and then there was a big clap of thunder. She slipped into the chair next to me and put her arm across my shoulder, and we both laughed.

Rice Crispy Squares
One 10 oz bag of marshmallows (or 4 cups mini-marshmallows)
Six cups of Rice Crispies
3 Tbs butter or margarine

In a large saucepan, melt the butter on low heat. Add in the marshmallows slowly, stirring until they are completely melted. Remove from heat and stir in the cereal until thoroughly coated. Spread into a greased (Pam, butter or margarine- your choice) baking dish 13x9x2.
Cut into squares and then let cool.
Eat and sit back and enjoy the thunderstorm.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Sleeping is my favorite hobby. I used to have lots of activities I liked to do. Right now, I am working so much I resent the time I have to do housework. I can't sleep all the time but I can't seem to get enough sleep. One to three hour commutes plus 13 hour days means I don't get half enough sleep. Half the time I am too tired to make something to eat so I nosh on cheese and crackers.
Last week I did 4 straight 12-hour days and a weekend (9 hours a day) then had 2 days off to clean and do my errands. This week I did 3 12's and a weekend.
I woke up this morning to my son calling me- he was driving by and saw the car so he came in. I was really groggy and hard to rouse, and this was 10 am. However, I don't get their company very often, so I try and make an effort when the kids stop by. I had a cup of tea and chatted with him about school a few minutes before he headed back to work. The kitties were all over both of us, desperate for attention.
I was still pretty tired, so I resolved to just rest, and do nothing for one day. Watched a Netflix movie and decided to take a nap when the thunderstorms moved in. I crawled into bed around 3:30 and didn't wake til 8:30 pm. I've been yawning since 10 pm again, so I am hitting the pillows again.
Sometimes ya just need to sleep.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Yes It's Yet Another Meme...

It's pretty obvious I am a sucker for a meme.
This one is from my friend drgnfille, aka nikachica.

1. My username is _____ because ____.
BheanAnfa...because it's been my nick on the net since I first logged in. I remember being so nervous chatting that I didn't use much English at first...

2. My name is _____ because ______.
So post-war American that I have hated it all my life.

3. My journal is titled ____ because ____.
Cruinne-BheanAnfa just means BheanAnfa's World. Welcome to it. It confuses the hell out of me, so I don't expect you to understand it.

4. My friends page is called ____ because ____.
Door Number Three because it's her third site and the good stuff is always behind Door Number #3...

5. My default userpic is ____ because ____.
My graduation. One of the happiest days in my life. I still can't believe I did it. :)

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Lights in the Sky and the Carillion

When I was very little, the fireworks for the city of Boston were shot off from a barge off Carson Beach. All the aunties and cousins would converge on my house and we'd pack up thermoses of lemonade, blankets and citronella candles. Uncles Bob and Tom were always good for producing sparklers (illegal in Massachusetts), which we would wave in the dark to make circles of light. The big boys from the corner would lob cherry bombs and get yelled at by the moms. We'd chase each other about the sand until the show began, then we'd sit on our towels and "Ooooh!" in unison.
Later, the show was moved to the Charles River, and as a teen, I'd head over with groups of friends to the Hatch Shell to hear the Boston Pops concert and watch the synchronized firework show. First would be a few opening acts. Then when darkness fell, conductor Arther Fiedler would put together a grand show of Broadway tunes, popular songs and classical works by Copland and Sousa. The climax came when he would start "The 1812 Overture" by Tchaikovsky- we'd be on our feet the minute we heard the first strains. The final movement was when the fireworks started and we'd roar so loud you could hear us on the Pike. Then he would lead us in medley, one patriotic song after another. Thousands of us singing and dancing to "You're a Grand Old Flag", "God Bless America", "This Land is Your Land" and "Yankee Doodle Dandy", all to the accompaniment of spectacular fireworks.
The best year ever was the Bicentennial- 1976. We determined to be there for this monumental occasion, and we were at the Hatch Shell by 8am staking out our space with blankets and beach towels. Rich and Johnny were five years old, and we dragged them along. We played games and threw frisbees and sang all day in the hot sun. More and more people arrived to begin staking out their spaces so close to us we could barely move. At nearly sunset, we made one last run to the Port-a-Potties and the lines were tremendous. Someone took pity on us because of the kids and let us go ahead. As we stepped out of the potty area and headed back to the footpath, a row of security blocked out way and a limo pulled up. Out stepped Arthur Fiedler right before us and he waved at us as he went by.
We slowly made our way through a tremendous crush of people, heading back to our blankets where the menfolk held out places. Soon there were so many people we could not avoid stepping on blankets and excusing ourselves as we passed. The throng became so thick that about 100 feet before we got back, we couldn't walk any further. We called and waved to our friends, but we couldn't get through the crush. This big burly guy saw our dilemma, lifted Rich up and passed him along to the next guy; Johnny, Jan and I followed suit. Perhaps it was a primitive kind of crowd-surfing, but it was pretty surreal and yet really reassuring to be passed gently, safely and with great good humour back into the waiting arms of our boyfriends.
Settled back on our now-dwindled personal space, we were just in time for the music to begin.
We sang along and enjoyed the music with about 800,000 of our fellow humans.
And then the piece de resistance- the first strains of the 1812 Overture. The springtime motif, the Russian anthemn, the Marsellaise rose and clashed and fell and soared. The final motif, the martial battle theme rose, and the National Guard shot off the cannons over the water as the fireworks exploded, and every church bell near the Charles pealed in unison. There is no memory that recalls the Fourth of July so quickly to mind as the acrid smell of the cannons, the matching reverberating boom of your heart in your chest, and the sound of church bells echoing the orchestra's tempo. Boston owns this one unlikely theme to struggle and hope, because the Maestro put together all the elements that make it so gloriously unique; church bellringer groups, soldiers, firework companies... eat yer heart out, NYC!

I may have gone to the Charles on the Fourth a time or two after that, but nothing could ever equal the magic of that night. I always tried to get my kids to go with me when they were younger, but they had no interest in facing the huge crowds and having to stake a seat so early in the day. The fireworks in Worcester were basically a yawn after what I was used to. We went a few times in Arlington, which weren't too bad for a small town, and the locals were pretty entertaining. The last time, I went in 2000 with cousins from England, who really enjoyed seeing how Americans celebrate. The town I am in now does fireworks I watch from the end of my driveway- two years ago a young black man, an honor student, was beaten to death by two local thugs at the fireworks display. Doesn't make me eager to participate.

So the last few years I have worked, but I do get home in time to watch the show on TV. As the years have passed since Fiedler died, Keith Lockhart has risen to the occasion with gusto. My one complaint is that the fireworks are synched to canned music now instead of the live performance. The musical choices are a bit weird at times. This year's lineup was a bit better, but Pavarotti? It's also gotten a bit heavy on the country- not the usual type of music you hear in urbane Beantown. Apparently, since it's aired nationally, they want to please a wider American musical taste. The best fireworks this year were synched to "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" by the Dropkick Murphys (ok maybe I'm prejudiced about their awesome music, but they WERE the coolest firework FX during that song).

Don't believe me? Check it out for yourself. Go here:
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