Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tuesday Tidbits

It was one week ago today that Amanda had her two bottom wisdom teeth extracted so it's off to the oral surgeon for her follow-up appointment. She said that it's still a bit sore in places and hurts when she chews but for the most part I'd have to say she had a pretty easy recovery. Hopefully she'll soon find that with those two wisdom teeth out, she'll have less headaches and her jaw won't ache all the time.

I can't believe that it's the end of June already and I still haven't put my air-conditioners in! Truth be told I don't mind the cooler weather we've been having this summer as I'm not a big fan of hazy, hot, and humid - which is normally what we get here. That said, we could still have a few less rainy days - please!

Even though we had rain for 22 out of the 30 days of June, I was surprised to see that the water seemed to be down quite a bit over at Yantic Falls when I passed by there the other day. I guess the water levels go down in the summer regardless of how much rain you have.

Speaking of the Falls, I took a 911 call from one our of local ETOHs the other night who told me that he fell off Indian Leap and hurt his arm. Nothing for nothing but I've been up on Indian Leap and if you fell off of there - inebriated or not - you'd do a lot more than hurt your arm! The gentleman in question wasn't exactly very polite while requesting an ambulance either so the police joined us "just in case".

Just in case anyone was wondering, the wreaths that were in the pictures on my post from yesterday are on the doors of the First Congregational Church in Canterbury. I was there earlier in the month for a surprise party for my cousin and his wife who had just celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary and I snapped some pictures of the church while I was there. This isn't the "original" First Congregational Church of Canterbury as the first First Church was destroyed in a fire but it's definitely your quintessential New England Congregational Church!

I've been kicking around a few ideas of where to take the girls for a road-trip or two this summer and it was mentioned to me at work yesterday by one of my fellow dispatchers that I should check out the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in New York. A quick search of the internet showed it to be only about 2 hours from here just up the Hudson River a bit from New York City. Apparently the cemetery offers regular tours and is quite the place with graves from Revolutionary War heroes to New York millionaires including the Rockefellers and the Helmsleys. In addition to that, the town of Sleepy Hollow itself - home of the fictitious Ichabod Crane - looks pretty cool and a great place to take my Nikon the girls.

Speaking of the girls, I wonder if they could behave themselves on a road-trip or whether I'd end up dumping them by the side of the road with a sign attached that read "Free to Good Home"?!? Amanda seemed to think a trip to Sleepy Hollow would be cool so maybe she could get along with her sister long enough to actually get there.

Actually, not to jinx myself here, they've been getting along pretty good the last few days so I'm hoping that perhaps a corner has been turned - or at least a temporary truce called! I keep hoping that like all of the others who have told me that they" never got along with their sister but now they're great" the same will happen with Amanda and Jamie. Hope springs eternal in the heart of a mother!

Speaking of mothers, congratulations to my friend Kevin whose wife just gave birth to their second daughter on Sunday the 28th. Kevin reports mom and baby are doing fine and should be coming home either Wednesday or Thursday. In the meantime he's taken some time off of work to take care of his adorable oldest daughter and enjoy the new addition to their family.

Guess that about wraps up the tidbits for now; here's hoping everyone has a great Tuesday and last day of June!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Zuppa Toscana - The At Home Version!

Last Saturday afternoon the girls and I went to The Olive Garden for lunch and - for probably the 12th time - I said that if I could just find a recipe for it, I'd make my favorite Zuppa Toscana soup at home so that we could have it more often. Amanda likes it just as much as I do so I finally went in search of a recipe online.

Turns out there were quite a few from which to choose but none of them sounded 'quite right' as I couldn't for the life of me remember there being bacon in the soup. However, every recipe I looked at called for bacon in varying amounts so I figured that had to be right, right? I ended up using a little of this and a little of that from each of the recipes that I found and eventually ended up with my own recipe of sorts. When I made the soup I doubled the recipe as the way I look at it you can never have enough Zuppa Toscana and I knew Amanda would be looking for leftovers if it came out as well as the soup we love at The Olive Garden.

If you'd like to try it, the recipe I used was:
  • 1 quart water
  • 2 14.5 oz cans of chicken broth
  • 4 medium-size russet potatoes
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 1-1/2 to 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 3 pieces of cooked crisp bacon, diced
  • 1 pound spicy Italian sausage
  • 3 cups chopped kale
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper

  • Cook the Italian sausage, crumbling it as you go (I used the non-link variety); drain and set aside.
  • Lightly saute the onion in the same pan you just cooked the sausage in until soft.
  • In a large pot, add water, chicken broth, garlic, sauteed onions, and potatoes; cook over medium heat until potatoes are tender.
  • Add cooked sausage and cooked diced bacon to the pot and let simmer for another ten minutes.
  • Add kale and heavy cream to pot; season with salt & pepper; heat for about 5 to 10 minutes; serve to rave reviews!
This was my finished product and Amanda declared it to be exactly like the soup at The Olive Garden; the only things missing were the grated Romano cheese on top and the breadsticks! Because Amanda dislikes onions almost as much as she dislikes needles, after sauteing the onions I put them through my mini-food processor so Amanda couldn't see them floating in her soup and she never even knew they were there until I told her after she'd eaten her first bowl-full!

Unfortunately Jamie didn't much care for the soup as she thought it was a little too spicy for her tastebuds and she's also not much of an Italian sausage fan but I thought it actually came out pretty close to the real thing. I think the next time I make it, I'm actually going to throw in a couple extra potatoes and see how it comes out and I might toss in another handful of kale, too, but other than that I'm going to give myself a pat on the back and call it buon abbastanza rammendato per una prima prova!*

*pretty darned good for a first try!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Looking at the Sky on Friday - The Bleh Version

Sigh ... yep ... that gray sky is pretty much what we here in Connecticut have been looking at all Spring and now into the Summer. I do believe there's more color in the reflections of the water on Beach Pond then there is in the sky! Oh well, Mother Nature is a stubborn cuss and it is what it is - bleh!

Speaking of it is what it is - today is Gracie's birthday so I wanted to make sure to give her a shout out way over there in California and send her wishes for a day filled with happiness! Stop by and wish her a good one and then pop over to Tisha's where I'm sure you'll find some blue skies and maybe even some cottony clouds!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Moment of Reflection

On Route 165 in Rhode Island - straddling the Connecticut State Line - lies Beach Pond beach, part of the Arcadia Wildlife Management Area and a great place to go swimming when I was a kid long, long ago.

Unfortunately, swimming at Beach Pond was prohibited several years ago due to a cut in funding for lifeguards in the Rhode Island state budget. Since then, the bathhouse that used to stand on the beach has been torn down and the beach strewn with rocks so that people aren't tempted to swim there illegally.

I stopped by Beach Pond briefly on way back from dropping a friend and her mother off at the airport near Providence, Rhode Island this morning and snapped a few pictures of the once lively beach area. I had hoped that maybe - just maybe - the sun would make an appearance and I could capture a sunrise while I was up at the unprecedented time of before dawn but alas, the sun chose to hide behind the clouds yet again.

While walking along the abandoned beach, I thought this one tree was quite fascinating as its roots are obviously growing above ground while it hangs on tenaciously by the edge of the pond and it reminded me of the Bible passage about the sower and the seeds where Jesus tells His disciples His very first parable:

“Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” - Matthew 13:3-9
Sometimes it's hard not to look at nature and remember the words of the Lord, isn't it? I wonder how deep the roots of this tree run and how long it's been hanging on to the edge of the pond?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I've Got a Question - You've Got an Answer

Rumor has it that it's summer and even the calendar proclaimed it as such on June 21st but you'd be hard-pressed to believe it here in New England where a lot of us are beginning to think that somehow the country was spun around and we are now living in Seattle! The sun has been virtually nonexistent this year - or so it seems - and truth be told, it's getting a bit depressing - particularly after the brutal winter we went through.

Mother Nature occasionally teases us with a nice day, though, just to give us a glimmer of hope or a reminder that the sun is still out there - somewhere - doing what the sun does best in the summer so I thought I'd take a moment just to ask everyone -

What are your summer plans?

Personally I've been craving a train trip of some sort but that's probably because I've been taking way too many pictures of train tracks! Currently, though, there aren't any plans to go anywhere in particular or do much of anything except perhaps a short visit to see the cousins in Massachusetts while Jamie is here.

How about you? What are you up to this summer?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Open Wide!

In just a little while I'll be waking Amanda up so that she can take her prescribed dose of Xanax prior to her oral surgery which is scheduled for 9:30 EST today. Whoever thought of giving patients something to relax them prior to having their wisdom teeth removed is a genius as I think Amanda is most definitely going to be nervous - not so much about the extraction itself but about the IV that they are going to be putting in her arm to administer the Versed used to send her off to LaLa Land during the procedure.

Yep, our own Miss Delirium is deathly afraid of needles. Go figure! I guess everyone is afraid of something and if it isn't ghosts and ghouls and things that go bump in the night, it may as well be needles! I personally have no problem with needles in spite of the fact I have horrible veins but I make up for that by having a nice healthy fear of heights. Heck, my palms sweat just watching a high-wire act on TV!

My friend Andrew, who is a paramedic, checked out Amanda's veins the other day and told her that she'll have no problems as she's got lots of available sites (thank goodness she didn't inherit my sorry-excuse for accessible sites to sink an IV) and that she probably won't even feel it when they put the needle in. The doctor has told her that they freeze the site prior also so as long as she has her iPod earbuds firmly in place and looks the other way, she should be fine. That dose of Xanax will probably help, too!

If all goes well, she should be in and out of the dentist chair in less than an hour and back home before she even knows it. As a matter of fact, if she has the same reaction I did to the Versed, she probably won't know it! I've jokingly told her that I was going to bring a video camera to record how she reacts to the drug but I'm still debating whether to actually do it or not. Truth be told, I wish someone had videotaped me after my surgery on the 12th as I'm still wondering whether I did or said something more embarrassing than asking about cute guys in the waiting room!

Anyhow, happy thoughts and well wishes for a speedy and relatively painless recovery for Amanda would be greatly appreciated today. As someone who has all of her wisdom teeth still intact I'm not sure exactly what Amanda will be going through but as her mother, of course I hope it's a simple procedure with an easy recovery period.

Update! Amanda is sleeping soundly (in my room, of course) after what the dentist said was a very easy extraction and two teeth that just "popped" right out. At the end of surgery she was laughing and giggling and acting quite like she'd had way too much too drink (and yes, I have video!). Her first request was her cellphone so that she could twitter an update - oy! -with her second request being a shake from McDonald's because she was starving. It was too early for Mickey D's so she came home and had a small glass of milk with a Tylox before deciding I was right after all and she really wanted to sleep for awhile. That was close to three hours ago!

So far so good, right?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Jane Austen Takes Over Chick Flick Sunday

Yesterday was the epitome of Chick Flick Sunday at work as Jen and I watched not one or two but THREE Jane Austen related movies in between being very busy with the radio and telephones. Jen wondered if I had gotten a little carried away with the NetFlix queue but I guess they just lined up that way when I was checking off movies for inclusion.

We watched the Masterpiece Theater editions of Mansfield Park and Northanger Abby and then followed that up with Miss Austen Regrets which was based on the last few years of Jane Austen's life as she looks back on her life and loves and helps her favorite niece, Fanny, decide about a husband. I believe that most of the movie was culled from letters to her sister and other bits and pieces of family correspondence.

Truth be told, it's kind of depressing as it's very sad to think that a woman who wrote so compellingly of love and passion ended up spending her life as a spinster living with her mother and her sister, Cassandra. Still, you've got to admire someone for sticking to their principals of not getting married simply for convenience or money - as was often the case during the time period in which Miss Austen lived. Jane wanted to marry for love and if she couldn't marry for that then she wouldn't marry at all.

One of the lines I liked best in Miss Austen Regrets is when she is talking to her niece Fanny about men and tells her that "the only way you can get a man like Mr. Darcy is to make him up". Sad, but true, particularly if your favorite Mr. Darcy is the one played by Colin Firth (rowr!). Still, if you're an incurable romantic like myself, you always hope that someday your own Mr. Darcy will show up on your doorstep perhaps lost and looking for directions that only you can provide him.

Alas, I am no Elizabeth Bennett, Catherine Morland, Fanny Price, Ann Elliott, Eleanor or Marianne Dashwood, or Emma Woodhouse though there are times when I fervently wish I was as even though they have to go through some tough times to get there - all of these heroines eventually end up with the man they love and, for all intents and purposes, live happily ever after. Right?

Just for kicks, I took a quiz to see what Jane Austen character I am and got the following results which I don't think are quite right:
You're Fanny Price from Mansfield Park! You are quiet and feel alone most of the time, and you don't usually speak out. Because of your quiet, sweet nature, you are sometimes used as a most unfortunate scapegoat.

Marianne Dashwood

Catherine Morland

Fanny Price

Anne Elliot

Elizabeth Bennet

Emma Woodhouse

Elinor Dashwood


Alone - yes, for the most part ... quiet and don't speak out? No, I don't think so! And I also rather doubt I serve as anyone's unfortunate scapegoat! Still, she held out for her Edward and she got him in the end so in that case, I guess I wouldn't mind being Fanny Price after all. Truth be told, though, I really do believe I am more Marianne Dashwood then any other Austen character.

How about you? Anyone else want to take the quiz and tell me your results? Guys - you are excluded unless you're feeling brave!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

"The Moving Wall" Stops in Norwich

Since June 5th, Norwich has been celebrating its Semiseptcentennial - 350th birthday - with various and assorted tours, a reenactment of the deed signing between the Colonists and the Mohegans, Riverfest with dragon boat races, a kids trout fishing derby and a whole host of other events.

The big event for this weekend was the arrival and display of the traveling Vietnam Wall Memorial which was set up at Howard T. Brown Park near the marina. "The Moving Wall" is a 3/5th scale of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC that stands six feet tall at the center and covers almost 300 feet from end to end which has been touring the country for more than twenty years. The Wall's visit to Norwich was sponsored by Norwich VFW Post 594 and it was quite the site to see.

After Amanda's party last night, Amy and I took the girls down to Howard T. Brown Park to look at The Wall and take some pictures while reflecting upon all of the lives lost not just in Vietnam but throughout America's history as there were also displays from the Korean War, the Wars in Irag and Afghastan, and a 911 tribute.

We stopped by briefly again today so that Amy could look up the name of a friend amongst the dogtags of those killed in action in Iraq. The stop was unplanned so I didn't have my camera with me but I did have my trusty cellphone to capture a few images under the cloudy skies.

With over 58,000 names on The Wall I am always very thankful that my Dad's name is not among them though it very well could have been as he was injured during a bombing raid in Danang, Vietnam during his tour there. Instead he came home with the shrapnel they'd removed from his leg as well as a Bronze Star and Purple Heart Medal. It's my understanding that he would have been just as happy to not have any of the three but he served proudly in the United States Air Force for over 20 years serving during both the Korean and Vietnam Wars and I was always proud of him.

No doubt there are families standing proudly behind all of those 58,000+ names and missing them every single day; for that reason I set the following video to a song from the Statler Brothers - More Than a Name on a Wall. Don't forget to thank a veteran next time you see one.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Amanda's Birthday Wrap-Up

If I were Amanda, I'd have to say that I had a pretty darned good 17th birthday even though it took 2 days to do it! After all, she got a Tardis cake (even if it looked like it had accordioned upon crash landing!), a Doctor Who t-shirt complete with David Tennant as the doctor, the DVD series of Doctor Who Seasons 1-4 (though they are coming via slow boat from China and haven't gotten here yet), a Tardis cookie jar which is on pre-order, and a party complete with a whole lot of balloons!

The balloons were a gift from our friend Amy (she of Amy & Jason fame) who really knows how to make a kid happy on her birthday - even though Amanda looks more scared of the balloon than happy in this picture!

As I had failed miserably in the celebration of her 16th birthday last year, I decided that this year I'd do better and invited folks over to the new humble abode for sandwiches, chips, watermelon, and the famed Tardis cake. Guests included my favorite Aunt Eleanor and cousin Amy, my mother and youngest brother John, Amy minus Jason who had a nasty sinus headache, and my son Mike along with his wife Laura and the two grandsons - Christopher and Mathew.

Everyone seemed to have a good time visiting and Amanda even managed to smile quite a bit. I actually left the camera on the dresser and didn't take any pictures (which my mother thought was rather amazing!) but I figured I'd forgo the role of photographer and just enjoy the evening. After all, I've posted more than enough pictures of the famed Tardis cake which - once we peeled off the blue fondant - was quite tasty!

Amanda got some very nice gifts for her birthday including every teen's favorite - cash! - and a very special present which came from Jason & Amy ...

Meet Demise - the newest member of the household! Amanda had been talking about wanting to get a hamster as she didn't seem to have much luck with reptiles (she insists that Evra is my lizard being that I feed him and talk to him) so Amy (who loves all pets!) had asked me if it was okay to get her a hamster and all the trimmings for her birthday. Being the easy-touch that I apparently am, I acquiesced knowing that at least I wasn't going to have to feed a hamster frozen baby mice if Amanda happened to go somewhere.

Earlier in the afternoon before the party, Jason & Amy stopped by loaded down with a cage with accessories, food, bedding, exercise ball, and a fancy bear hamster that had Amanda grinning from ear-to-ear even before she took her out of her box.

The idea originally was to put the cage in Amanda's room where Tardis' habitat used to be but considering she spends more time in the dining room on the computer than in her room it was decided to put it on the shelf next to the computer so Amanda would be able to watch her more often.

Various names were tried out and discarded before I suggested "Demise" based on one of Amanda's favorite Creature Feature songs. She ran it past her friends online who all agreed it was a great name and so it became that Miss Delirium met her Demise! Of course, I'm beginning to think she should have named her "Sheezsokewt" as I think Amanda must have said that a good 30 times shortly after Demise arrived!

Like I said, were I Amanda I'd have to say I had a pretty darned good 17th birthday and I'm thinking that maybe I've managed to redeem myself from last year's epic fail!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Tackling the Tardis (Cake!)

"So Linda .. what did you do on your day off Thursday?"

"I built a Tardis."

"A what?"

"A Tardis, it's a time machine."

"A what?!?"

"A time machine - Time and Relative Dimension in Space to be exact."

"Okay ... and exactly just why did you build a, what do you call it, Tardis?"

"Amanda really wanted one for her birthday."

"A time machine??"

"Well, a birthday cake that looked like one at any rate!"

Yeah, I'm thinking that's probably about how that conversation would go were I to actually have it!

For those unfamiliar with the British Sci-Fi television series that has been around almost longer than I have, Doctor Who features a guy (the doctor) who travels through time in the Tardis getting into all sorts of adventures with his sonic screwdriver and trusty sidekick. The show has become one of Amanda's very favorites and one of her requests for her birthday this year was a Tardis cake.

To be honest, I originally wasn't going to do it as I figured I had absolutely no talent when it came to cake-making - especially one that was supposed to look like a blue police call box! I had hoped that Mags would be able to come down from Boston and bail me out (excellent baker that she is) but alas, she had plans and couldn't make it. I then kicked around the idea of getting a digital picture put on a sheet cake at the local grocery store but in the end, after checking every internet source possible, I decided I'd take on the challenge and hope for the best.

After gathering up what I figured I was going to need for this project -

I decided I was ready but Thursday morning found me running out to the store for a couple more cans of frosting "just in case" as it had dawned on me late the night before that perhaps I wouldn't have enough. I had been lucky enough to find blue fondant online and a few other things I needed which was good because I had never ever worked with fondant in my life and I was a bit intimidated by the whole idea. The stuff is tricky to say the least!

On Tuesday I baked four 8x8 chocolate cakes and another four 8x8 vanilla cakes so that they'd be ready for Thursday's cake-a-thon which commenced around noon. Of course pictures were taken throughout the process and put together in this really quick one-minute video set to the theme music from Doctor Who for your viewing pleasure -

Ah, if only I could have made the cake that quickly but instead it took me about four hours all told.

It wasn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination and I'm not sure how well it's going to look at the party this evening as once it comes out of the refrigerator it will probably be even more wibbly-wobbly and timey-whimey than it already is (I'm pretty sure I know what things I did wrong and should I ever take on this sort of project again will attempt to learn from those mistakes). The bottom line though is that Amanda seemed to love it and that smile was more than worth it!

Now here's hoping Jamie wants something "normal" for her 16th birthday next month!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Amanda's Birthday Tardis

Well Amanda's Tardis cake is done but I don't know if it will last until tomorrow night's party being that it is all wibbly-wobbly and sagging badly! Pardon the picture quality, it was sent from my cell phone. Better pictures later - honest!

Happy Birthday, Miss Delirium!

As hard as it is for me to believe, it was 17 years ago today somewhere around 2:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time in Long Beach, California that I gave birth to my first daughter -Amanda Elizabeth. Her middle name is in tribute to my mother who also claims today as her birthday - albeit quite a few years earlier than Amanda! Happy birthday, Mom!

Those of you who have been regular readers of my blog are probably quite familiar with the variations in the color of Amanda's hair but when she first came home from the hospital she had a beautiful head of soft brown hair that even back then refused to be tamed! I guess I should have taken it as a sign of things to come but alas, who knew that in my arms I was holding a future wanna-be zombie?!?

In looking back over the pictures in the collage below (which you can click to make bigger), it's easy to see how much Amanda has changed over the years - from a blonde-haired little girl to a multi-color-haired teenager as well as a few stops in between.

No doubt Amanda will do some more changing between now and her 18th birthday next year - which also happens to fall on the scheduled day for graduation of the Norwich Free Academy Class of 2010 and the day when she will walk across the stage, receive her diploma, and step into the confusing world of life after high school. She thinks that graduating on her 18th birthday is going to stink though I think it's pretty cool ... but then again, what do I know? I actually liked high school!

For today, though, we're going to celebrate her 17th birthday with preparations for a small party tomorrow evening with family, friends, and a Tardis-shaped birthday cake. For those of you who aren't exactly sure what that is, come on back tomorrow when I hope to have a post on the creation of this epic cake ... or epic fail depending on how well I do! The things we do for our kids on their birthdays ... !

Until then, if you'd like to pop by Amanda's blog (where she doesn't post anywhere near as often as I think she should!) and leave her a birthday wish or two on the post I broke into her blog and left then click on over to Artcetera and feel free to tell her that I said she needs to update her blog! Nothing says happy birthday quite like nagging from blog friends!

Happy birthday, Amanda, and I hope one of your wishes is that I don't screw up your cake!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sculptures of Peace and Joy in Rhode Island

This piece of artwork is called "Dancing on the Waves" and is located in a small park in front of the town beach at Narragansett, Rhode Island. The sculpture is created by Anne Mimi Sammis, "whose passion for love and peace, embody the joy, the dance of love between ourselves and others."

From what I can determine, Ms. Sammis is a resident of Narragansett but her artwork can be found in quite a few other states in this country as well as overseas in England and the Netherlands. She has a second sculpture located in the same park called "Dance of Peace" -

Jamie not included!

Sometimes I just don't 'get' modern art but I thought these sculptures were rather pretty and I can appreciate their meaning and the thought behind them. As a matter of fact, I think that our own Queen Mimi, founder of the Peace Globe Movement, would really hit it off with this other Mimi who also strives for peace through her artwork - one of which bears a striking resemblance to a globe! Maybe it's the name?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Lawnwork Explained

Having caught heck from a few folks yesterday when I mentioned that I was mowing the lawn before the next rains came in, I thought today would be a good time to do a post about the lawn and why it is that I mow it myself rather than having either of the two teenagers who reside with me do it.

This is my humble abode - Casa de Mouseski if you will - in all of its brick glory. My part of this palatial estate is the entire bottom floor with neighbors both upstairs (the Vietnamese smokers) and a lovely elderly lady named Elizabeth who lives in the small apartment over the garage at the back of the property.

As you can see, the yard is not exactly massive in proportion but my landlord knocks off a nice chunk of my monthly rent in return for mowing it and keeping it looking decent. When this past winter ended, most of the yard underneath the tree was dirt and small trees that were attempting to grow into a forest. It looked pretty bad to be honest!

Since I started taking care of the lawn I have put down new grass seed and also gotten rid of most of the weeds that had taken root. I've also picked up way too many cigarette butts but after putting them in a can and placing them on the upstairs neighbors' back steps last time I mowed, they seem to have gotten the hint that the yard is not their personal ashtray. Yay! Who says you need to speak the same language in order to communicate?!? At any rate, I take pride in the way the lawn currently looks kind of like those guys you see on commercials on TV about Scotts Turf-Builder and the like!

The crux of the matter is, I enjoy taking care of the lawn or else I wouldn't have agreed to do it when the landlady asked me. They have provided me with a very nice self-propelled lawnmower and anything else I may need for the job merely requires me buying it, mailing them the receipt, and deducting the amount from my rent check. Not a bad deal at all.

Yes, the girls are old enough to help out with the yard but truth be told, I'd really rather do it myself and I wouldn't have done it were I not feeling up to it yesterday. My doctor had told me I could resume normal activities after the weekend as long as I felt okay and I felt more than well enough to mow the small amount of grass we have out there. I had wanted to do it before my surgery but the weather we've been having this so-called Spring didn't give me a chance and with more rain predicted for most of this week (with the exception of Wednesday when I work a double) yesterday was the best time.

Trust me, I do know my limitations when it comes to physical abilities and if I forget them, my back is quick to remind me that I am no longer young and need to take it easy. I've mowed lawns since I was a teenager and because it's one of those things where you get immediate visible results for your efforts, I have always enjoyed it. There's nothing quite like a fresh mowed lawn! Granted, I don't enjoy mowing when it's hot and humid but that just means I let the grass grow a little more and wait for it to be nicer out.

Thank you to everyone for your concern, I really do appreciate your looking out for me and I promise to put the girls to work pulling weeds and such if need be - now that I don't enjoy!

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Brief Glimpse of Rhode Island

The sun actually managed to come out for awhile yesterday and there were blue skies - at least in Rhode Island if not Connecticut! Following a visit with my grandson for his fourth birthday, the girls and I went for a ride up the Rhode Island coast and made a stop in Narragansett at the seawall.

More pictures* later but for now, I really need to get out and mow the lawn before going back into work this afternoon after my short 'medical leave'. I guess all good things must come to an end, eh?

*click on pictures to biggify

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday Scenery

Back around Memorial Day I took a walk through the Yantic Cemetery and while there took a few pictures of some the local flowers that were blooming. I'm not real good at macro stuff but I kind of like the way they turned out.

Lastly, in honor of Flag Day which marks the anniversary of the adoption by Congress in 1777 of the Stars and Stripes as the emblem of our nation is a picture I took of the new flags that had been put out for Memorial Day weekend on the graves of several veterans of the Spanish American War -

Posted by Picasa
Today is also my Aunt Eleanor's birthday so a very happy birthday to her! Speaking of birthdays, I'm going to take a nice leisurely drive over to Rhode Island to my son's house for a belated birthday celebration for my grandson who turned four this past Friday. I promise to take it easy, okay? Everyone have a great Sunday!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Conscious, Alert, and Oriented Times Four

As the medical professionals that I work with like to say when transmitting information over the med radio to the hospital about patients they are bringing into the Emergency Department, today I am "conscious, alert, and oriented times four". In other words, I know who I am, where I am at, what time it is, and what's just happened. I'm not exactly sure I can say the same about a good part of yesterday!

As I reported in yesterday's blog post, I had an outpatient surgical procedure done at the local hospital that was actually a pretty simple sort of thing that will hopefully reap lots of benefits. It's something I probably should have had done long ago but somehow, just never got around to it. One of the requirements of the hospital was that I have a responsible driver to take me home after the procedure which at the time I thought was kind of funny being that I now live within extremely easy walking distance of the hospital. My friend Rhonda volunteered and ended up not just being a responsible driver but a responsible friend, too!

The William W. Backus Hospital is the only hospital here in Norwich and I've been there a time or two recently for assorted things but hadn't actually been there for anything of a surgical sort since 2005 when I had spinal epidural injections for my ongoing back issues. Since then they have changed their entire Same Day Surgery Suite and it's quite nice. Once I got checked in, Rhonda and I were shown to my "room" where I got to meet my nurse, the anesthesiologist, and another nurse who was participating in my surgery. After changing into my new-fangled hospital gown that was really quite cool (none of those gaping in the back, cloth gowns there!) the nurse had the unpleasant task of trying to put my IV in.

I say unpleasant because I have absolutely positively horrible veins and it's always a challenge to try to find one to use. Thankfully I know that ahead of time and can warn the nurse that it isn't going to be easy which they always find a bit dismaying because I think the last thing a nurse wants to do is hurt a patient looking for a vein. After tapping on my veins and looking in vain (no pun intended!) for a few moments, my nurse decided to try a double tourniquet to see if that would help. While she did that, Rhonda decided to tell a few jokes in order to relax the situation a bit and finally the nurse found a small vein in my left hand that didn't hide when she went after it. It really didn't hurt but that's probably because I'm used to the process however I'm glad that Amanda doesn't appear to have my veins as when she has to get her IV for her wisdom tooth extraction later this month I would rather she didn't have to go through that. Of course, I could always tell jokes like Rhonda did and see if that helped!

Once my IV was in place I was given an anti-nausea medication and then something to help me relax a bit (I think it may have been Xanax but I'm not positive). Shortly afterward my doctor came in and went over the procedure again with me and asked if I had any questions. I had told Rhonda that he was just a kid but that he was really nice and she agreed completely with me as he does look extremely boyish, especially in his surgical scrubs! The only question I had was how long Rhonda would have to wait for me to be out of the operating room and he said probably half an hour to forty-five minutes tops. She'd brought along a good book so wasn't too concerned about it herself but I hated to think she'd have to waste a good part of her day waiting on me. Following that I was wheeled down to the OR while Rhonda cheerily waved goodbye and told me to have a good time! A good time??

En route to the OR I met yet another of the nurses who would be in on my procedure named Dave and then once in the OR I was introduced to Maria but not the other two people who were on the other side of the room. For a simple procedure there sure seemed to be a lot of people in there! Once transferred from the gurney to the operating table I got all strapped in place into what I refer to as the sign of the cross (one arm stretched out on either side) and the anthesiologist put on my oxygen mask and started hooking up her tools of the trade. At that point she asked me, "Republican?" At first I wasn't sure what she meant or how she might have guessed my political affiliation (for the most part though I don't vote party lines) until I remembered the elephant tattoo that I have over my heart. Oh, that! I told her that it wasn't related to politics but that it was a birthday present from my friend Cyndi one year and that it was an elephant because we like to joke in my family that an elephant is the family mascot. Besides, it's purple and not red-white-and-blue!

Shortly after that, Dr. Briggs came in and asked me my name and date of birth as well as what I was having done (I guess just to make sure I was still with the program) and then one of the nurses said they were going to attach the pumps that keep you from getting blood clots to your legs and that was it for me ... I don't remember anything else until I woke up sipping cranberry juice in my room. I remember thinking it was odd that they had brought me cranberry juice but I didn't think much of it at the time.

I was given some toast to eat and the nurse asked if I was still having any itching to which I said "no" and again didn't think much of that though I thought it was an odd question as I didn't remember saying anything about any itching to begin with though I know for a fact that I have had issues with morphine and itching in the past and thought maybe she was referring to that. At that point I noticed that I was starting to have some cramping so the nurse gave me two Vicodin and said she thought it was strange that I wasn't having any cramping before when she asked but I don't even remember her asking. Huh?

Turns out that I was supposedly awake and having full conversations with everyone for a good half an hour or so before I was actually awake though I have no memory of any of that. I had thought it odd that the doctor didn't come by afterward but turns out that he did and even showed me pictures of part of the procedure as well as gave me instructions of what not to do for a few days and what to expect. Huh? The nurses had given me another medication that they said they explained to me (nope), I had requested cranberry juice when asked what kind of juice I wanted (nope), I had asked Rhonda if there were any cute guys in the waiting room (nope) and she had said Dr. Briggs was the cutest one there when he came out to get her to which he apparently told her that flattery would get her everywhere (nope), I said that I wasn't having any cramping at all when asked by the nurses a couple of times (nope), and I did say that I was having some itching when asked and the nurses gave me something for that (nope). When I told the nurse that I didn't remember any of that she seemed pretty surprised as she said I was talking coherently and seemed to know exactly what was going on as soon as they brought me back from the OR. Uh ... no!

Rhonda assured me that I didn't say anything inappropriate or embarrassing (0ther than asking about the cute guys in the waiting room I guess) but I have to say that it's really disconcerting to know that I was that out of it. The drug they gave me for the procedure, Versed, is what they refer to as conscious sedation or "twilight sleep" but apparently I was not conscious at all - and I defintely wasn't oriented! I guess maybe that's what people who sleepwalk or sleeptalk go through? Either way it was strange and once I mentioned that I had no recollection of any of the things that went on the nurse made sure to go over my post-surgical instructions with me again and had Rhonda be the responsible one to sign my paperwork.

By the time we left the hospital and went to the local CVS to have my prescription filled I was starting to feel pretty sick (I could have used some more anti-nausea medication apparently) and couldn't wait to get home and into bed. In spite of the two Vicodin they had given me at the hospital, my uterus was revolting big-time and I was having some of the most miserable cramps of my life that I was hoping to sleep through, especially considering I felt like I was still tip-toeing through LaLa Land. Jamie got the heating pad for me which helped and I slept almost the entire afternoon away - woke up briefly - and then slept the entire evening away - woke up long enough for the girls to give me some eggs and toast - and then slept the entire night away. I guess that's what they mean by 'rest and recover'!

Today I'm feeling pretty good and have no residual pain or anything else to speak of while also seeming to have pretty good control of my mental faculties, especially as opposed to yesterday! That Versed is some powerful stuff! Should be interesting to see how Amanda reacts on the 23rd as that's what she's going to be getting at the oral surgeon's office for her procedure - maybe I'll have to take some videos! I almost wish someone had been taping yesterday as I have absolutely no idea what I said or did but now I know why one needs a responsible driver, as well as a responsible friend, to be there! Thanks again, Rhonda!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Procedural Update

First off, thank you so much to everyone who left well wishes here and on my Facebook page about my outpatient surgery. Everything seemed to go well and even though I had some major nausea and cramps from the hot, fiery place guarded over by some guy with a pointed tail and a pitchfork, I'm feeling much better tonight though still somewhat on the woozy side at the moment.

I'll try to blog some more tomorrow once I get the rest of this Versed out of my system. I'm thinking it's going to be a good nighty-night for me tonight!

Going Under the Knife Laser

Just enough time for a quick post before my "responsible driver" arrives to take me the two blocks or so over to the William W. Backus Hospital where I will spend probably most of the morning undergoing a little bit of outpatient surgery. Not that I'm sure if you can call what I'm having done surgery or not but hey ... it's all semantics, right?

Not to go into too much personal detail here (or skeeve anyone out!) but I am basically having the lining of my uterus burned away via a laser instrument that looks like the netting on a Coleman lantern! The procedure is called an endometrial ablation and it will, hopefully, take care of some issues I've been having for quite a long time - or at least long enough for me to enter the wonderful world of menopause. Oh joy.

Unlike my dispatch partner, Jen, who likes to happily tell pretty much anyone who walked into the dispatch center that she has a "pristine" uterus, I don't. Matter of fact, I probably have a fairly antique uterus at this point that has pretty much done what it's needed to do and could probably have simply been put out to pasture had I chosen to go the route of a full hysterectomy instead. However that would have required a lot more time off of work than I have available so I'm going this route instead.

My doctor tells me that the procedure is fairly simple and that for most people recovery is only a few days at the most which is why he performs them on Fridays so that people can use the weekend to recuperate. Of course, I don't have what one could call a normal weekend (naturally!) and would normally return to work on Sunday but for those who encouraged me (or was that yelled at me?) to take off Sunday, you will be happy to know that I have done so.

With any luck, I can spend some of the recovery time in bed with my laptop so perhaps I'll finally get a chance to catch up on my blogging but if not and you don't hear from me for a couple days (other than perhaps a status update on Facebook), I'll be taking it easy - once my responsible driver brings me back home later! Oh, and a big thank you to my friend Rhonda for coming all the way down here from Canterbury to take me the less than two blocks to the hospital - what a responsible gal and good friend!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Picture Story

Thanks to my friend Callie Ann in Oregon, I can now say that I have sold not just one but three of photographs! Granted, it's three prints of the same photograph but even so - woohoo!

Awhile back Callie Ann left a comment on the post I did about the old Broad Brook Dairy - Rusted Remains of Days Gone By in Preston - stating that she would like to buy a copy of the picture that I took of three rusted milk trucks as she thought the picture would like great on her grandson Jack Pepper's bedroom wall. I told her that I would be happy to have a copy made and sent to her and all she had to pay for was the cost of the copy and the shipping and handling.

Recently - thanks to Star - I found a great place for prints that uses this really cool metallic paper that makes pictures really pop and their prices are beyond reasonable. This isn't a paid post or anything like that but I can't say enough good things about iPrintfromHome.com and their service, their quality, or their prices and that's where I wanted to have Callie's print shipped from. Before I could place the order, though, she told me she wanted three 8x10's of the picture so that she could also give one to her grandfather who used to be a milkman and would appreciate the rusted relics in the photo.

I told her that the prints would cost $2.40 a piece and that shipping and handling for the whole order was going to be $3.00 but, because she's a sweetheart, Callie sent me a bit more than that via PayPal so I guess that I can now officially say that I have sold some of my photography and even made a profit on it! I sure hope that her grandfather and Jack Pepper like their pictures - I have no idea what Callie plans on doing with that third one.

While on the subject of my pictures, another friend from work who also happens to be a blogger, Rob, had a birthday last week and I gave him a framed 10x10 shot of a picture I took of the railroad trestle over the Yantic River. I had the square print made at iPrintFromHome.com and thought it added a unique perspective to the shot while the metallic paper almost give it a 3-D look. All in all, I was quite pleased with it.

Rob has been crossing a lot of bridges lately in his life - including his 21st birthday - so it seemed kind of appropriate to give him a bridge of his own to perhaps not cross but simply look at. He told me it looks great on the living room wall of his new home so after Callie gets her prints and hangs them up, I'll have stuff on the walls of three other homes other than my own! Well, actually four if you count the picture of the historic Green School in Canterbury I gave to my cousin (who is the President of the Historical Society in Canterbury) for her birthday. Hmm, I wonder if this qualifies me as a real photographer now??

Too bad I couldn't figure out how to make a good profit selling pictures; I'd much rather spend my spare time behind the lens of my Nikon than behind the microphone at the dispatch console but alas, I shall not be quitting my day job anytime soon! Besides, my crews would miss me - I hope!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Monday Musings

Two teenagers plus two computers = no chance for me to get online much these days! My apologies to everyone for being a lousy blog visitor as of late but I'm lucky if I can get the time to even check Facebook! Something tells me we're going to have to work out a schedule of some sort for the summer.

So far the girls have managed to more or less get along and there has been no blood-letting or destruction of the house. Fingers are crossed that Amanda and Jamie have reached a new level of maturity and can put their differences aside. Miracle of miracles, they were actually holding a civil conversation in the car the other night on the way home from the movies.

I had a couple of free movie passes so this past Saturday evening we went and used them. Amanda, of course, had wanted to see Drag Me to Hell while Jamie and I opted for Night at the Museum II. Even though I liked the first one better, I thought the movie was good and Jamie seemed to enjoy it, too. As for Amanda, she came out gushing about how good her movie was as it contained elements of Bruce Campbell and was just the right kind of cheesy horror movie that she likes. What am I gonna do with that kid?

Speaking of movies, Jen and I watched the 2008 Masterpiece Theater edition of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre as part of Chick-Flick-Sunday yesterday and I must say that I truly enjoyed it. Having never read the book I wasn't sure if it was going to be as depressing as Wuthering Heights from the other Brontë sister, Emily, and thankfully it wasn't. It was an excellent tale of love and the hoops that people jump through to not only obtain but keep it and of course I was left with a tear or two in my eye at the end simply because I was so happy for Edward and Jane. Have I ever mentioned that I am a romantic sap and truly do enjoy a good love story?

While on the subject of Wuthering Heights, I did a blog post about the Ralph Fiennes version of that movie awhile back - Love and Torment with Ralph Fiennes - and even though I got some good comments on it, I was a bit bummed as I didn't think that most people "got" the post. As a matter of fact, I was seriously considering not writing any more posts where I laid bare my heart for people because I figured most people didn't want to read deep, meaningful posts and preferred lighter fluff n' stuff instead. For awhile there I was wondering why I even bothered to blog at all but then I got a comment from an anonymous reader that made me think that maybe, just maybe, sometimes the drivel I write reaches someone ...
"Your review and own story had me in tears for a long time ...found you randomly, but nothing in this Universe is random ... just got divorced because of the same reason. Thank you for sharing ... always nice to know when what you chose to share touches another soul deeply, isnt it? :-)"
I don't know about the rest of you but it's comments like the one above that make me want to continue blogging and share some of the things that mean a lot to me. I know that a lot of people say that they blog for themselves but truth be told, I like to think that sometimes my blog can be entertaining or amusing or even touching as I do blog for other people and not just myself. I'm never going to be a writer-writer - this blog is as close as I will ever come - but that's okay, especially when I do manage to write something that someone else appreciates.

While on the subject of comments, some of you may have noticed that I don't do the Law Enforcement Line of Duty Death posts anymore. I stopped doing them at the end of last year because, honestly, it was getting to be pretty depressing to have to do them so often and, again, I figured that most people weren't even reading them. I apparently was wrong on that one, too, as I received the following email from the mother of one of those fallen heroes:
I apologize for not seeing your blog early but just found it tonight but wanted to thank you so very much for writing about my son, Sgt. Michael C. Weigand and caring. It's been so very hard and the pain just doesn't seem to have an end. I miss him horribly! But again, thank you for caring!

Kim Weigand
Mom of Sgt. Michael C. Weigand
Wow. Thank you, Mrs. Weigand, for a son who chose to protect and serve his community and in doing so, made the ultimate sacrifice. May you someday find comfort in knowing that he made a difference in this world though I have no doubt you will always, always miss him.

Finally, one more cool thing for my blog ... awhile back I got an email from Emma Williams, Managing Editor of Schmap Guides informing me that one of my pictures of the Salem Witch Museum had been selected for inclusion in their newly released sixth edition of the Schmap Boston Guide. You can check it out by clicking here which will take you to the Schmap for the iPhone version or here which takes you to their Educational Outing page. Pretty cool, huh? I'll be putting the following widget on my sidebar, too, in case you ever decide you want to visit the Boston area!

It's really an honor to have one of my pictures chosen to be included in something that maybe other people will see!

So, anyway, this started out as what was supposed to be a short post and, as per usual, I have blathered on way longer than I intended to and now need to consider getting ready to go to work. I will try to get caught up on everyone else's blogs soon as I do have a day off tomorrow and while Amanda is still in school until next week, I think I may be able to get some computer time! I hope!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

You Scream, I Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream!

Someone once said that the best things in life are free and even though I doubt they were actually talking about ice cream, that was the case yesterday when Friendly's hosted their second annual Free Ice Cream Day. Did someone say free? Did someone say ice cream? Well, you can bet I was all over that like a hobo on a ham sandwich!

In a time when the economy is hurting more people than it's helping, some of you might be wondering why Friendly's gave away free ice cream to as many people as possible (last year they gave away over 300,000 cups and cones). The reason was summed up by Friendly’s chief executive Ned R. Lidvall in a statement that read:
“We want to give away as much ice cream as possible. After a winter that was grueling – both because of the economy and because of the weather – people deserve a cool, delicious treat to kick off the summer.”
That certainly worked for me so after I got out of work I piled Amanda and Jamie in the car and made the short drive over to our local Friendly's (there are two of them in Norwich). There was a line but it wasn't too bad and the day was still nice so it was worth the short wait for three free ice cream cones (with sprinkles) which were guaranteed to make everyone happy from men in kilts to teenagers that you have to coax a smile out of!

Thank you, Mr. Lidvall, and all the friendly people at our local Friendly's! You rock!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A Quick Saturday Post

The sun has finally come out in Norwich which is good for today's Riverfest activities but not good for me because I am at work covering for a fellow dispatcher who is on vacation. I snuck outside to the patio to see just how nice it was and am now loathe to go back indoors! Come on 3:00! Hope you are having a great Saturday wherever you may be!