Sunday, November 15, 2009

I'd like to introduce you to . . .

Her new name is Angel. I don't know her story, or how she came to be left off in the alley behind the office where I work. The only things I do know are that someone must have loved her at one time, and whoever that was had her front claws removed (and I hope had her fixed as well).  It was Monday and I had stepped out back to have a smoke at mid-morning break. I heard a faint "meow" coming from behind the fence of the house across the alleyway. So I answered "kitty?" From a break in the gate I saw a face. So I talked some more. And she answered each time, but was too timid to come to me.

The next day I brought a can of Dixie's food to work and set some on a dish by the gate. Out popped her head and she immediately wolfed down every morsel - and allowed me to pet her head.

I brought a little more food out in the afternoon and set it further from the gate and called her. She came all the way out and after finishing off the food allowed me to pick her up and hold her, just for a little before she jumped down and scurried behind the safety of the gate again.

I kept feeding her - and by now the whole office knew about her. My boss, Gail, brought her 3 cans of cat food. By Thursday I was hooked on her and decided to bring her home. A decision everyone thought was a good one. I talked to Dixie about her too. I know she remembered Scupper from when she was a puppy because her ears pitched forward everytime I said his name. And I think she had a pretty good idea of what I was saying. I had been feeling bad about leaving her alone all day while I worked. She has always had someone there since she was a little puppy. And she seemed kind of lonely to me.

Of course that could have just been me projecting my feelings on to her - but I don't think so.

Anyway, Thursday, after I found a box and a blanket for her to hide in, I brought her into my office for the day. I don't think I have ever had that many visitors! Everyone wanted to see her and pet her. And she took it all in and seemed to be loving all the attention.

But she was so thin. You could feel each disc in her spine and each rib. She ate with such gusto that she would throw up after.

She still purred though. I don't think she was in the alley for very long, and each time I was out there I expected each passerby to stop and ask if I had seen a cat. But no one did.

So I piled her in the car at the end of the day and we drove the few miles home. She meowed the whole way, and panted, and tried to sit on the dashboard. She finally found a spot on my left shoulder with her nose poking out the space between the window and the car, with me trying to hold her and comfort her while shifting gears and trying to pay attention to the traffic.

Well, we made it home. And, so far, she has decided she likes it here. I think she has checked out every nook and cranny of the house, as well as the backyard. She has been with us for a couple of weeks now, and it almost seems as though she has always been here.

I haven't tried to force Angel and Dixie to pay attention to one another. Each of them is quite aware of the other. At first Angel would hiss if Dixie came too close. But the other day I caught them touching noses (how cute I know, but the camera was on the other side of the room). And today Dixie actually chased Angel into the house from outside!! Which is pretty much all Dixie wants - she really is in it for the chase!! So I think with time they will become good friends. I know Angel has brought a calm into our home that wasn't there before. And she is such a good cat. And while gratitude is probably not in most cats vocabularies, I get the feeling when she is rubbing against my arm and purring, that she is just a little grateful that we met in that alley, and that she is once again safe, and full, and can finally relax a little. Take care. K (aka Mad Beach Maven)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

And now for something completely different . . .

The Trip of Fools
"Throw 'em over," hollered the captain for the fourth time that day. I was wet and tired, but then all of us were. Only a week into the trip and I was wishing for home. It wasn't because we weren't catching fish either. We were on 'em pretty good. Nice big blackies too. But I couldn't shake that feeling of foreboding I'd had in my gut since we threw the lines and left the dock at Triangle. I don't think I'm a superstitious kind of guy. I whistle on deck and it hasn't affected the weather at all, and some of my best trips have begun on a Friday, just like this one. Nope, I decided, it couldn't be some old fisherman's silly superstition that was gnawing at my gut. But what could it be? My ol' lady is always talking about "woman's intuition" and premonitions and such. I wondered if there was a "man's intuition" too.

"What are you guys doin' back there, takin' a nap?" The captain's voice woke me out of my daydream with a start. "Get those clips on!" he shouted. "Easy for you to say," I grumbled under my breath. As the last clips went on I busied myself getting the hauling station ready. Finally, it was time for a much needed break. We were going to let the line soak for a while, so I slipped out of my boots and slickers and went below to stretch out on my rack. I fell into a deep sleep the minute my head hit the pillow.

I don't know how long I had been asleep when I was awakened by the sound of laughter. Such as odd sound for a fishing boat so late at night. And I could swear I heard a woman's voice. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness of the crew's quarters I could see the other's asleep in their racks. Curious, and having to take a whiz anyway, I climbed the steps to the wheelhouse. I couldn't believe what I saw before me. Where could all these people have come from? What were they doing on this boat? I was frozen mid-step, not sure if I should go forward or back down the steps. "Ow," I said, as I pinched myself. Well, so much for that theory, I thought. This can't be real I told myself. The urge to go had passed, so I crawled back into my rack and pulled the covers up over my head. "This is just a dream," I kept telling myself as I lay shaking under the blanket. Just a dream, just a dream, just a dream ...

I must have dozed off again, for when I awoke, the rest of the crew was already on deck. I hurried into my boots and slickers, grabbed a mug of coffee, and joined the others. "Hey, sleepy head," Wally chided. "Finally decided to join us, huh?" I figured it would be better not to share last nights happening just yet. I knew I'd take some major ribbing if I did. Besides, it was just a dream.

We picked up the line we had left in the water the night before, and set about on what had become our daily routine. We were still working the same area we had been in for the past week, and the number of fish seemed to have dwindled. The captain must have read my mind, because he announced at supper that night that we would be making a run in the morning, on the hunt for a better spot. I felt relieved, but I wasn't quite sure why.

It seemed like hours before I finally started to drift off into a fitfull sleep. Just as I was going under, I heard the laughter. This can't be happening again! Now, I was scared. I slowly got out of my rack and crept to the steps. I climbed them one at a time, hoping with each step that the laughter would stop and there would be nothing there when I reached the top step. It was not to be. The scene before me was just as it had been the night before. There were ten or twelve people milling around in the wheelhouse, and more outside on the back deck. They were dressed in party clothes, the men in jackets and the women in fancy dresses and heels. Soft music was coming from somewhere and a few of them were dancing. Open bottles of champagne and trays of appetizers were everywhere. No one seemed to notice me standing there in my skivvies.

Too many people for such a small boat, was all I could think about. I heard my name and looked around to see who had called me. I didn't know any of these people. Why would someone be calling me? My eyes drifted slowly over the crowd, and then I saw her. From across the deck, my wife was looking right at me, smiling and laughing. "Kath," I practically screamed. "What are you doing here?" I started to make my was toward her through the crowd, but just as I reached her, she disappeared! Shaken, I began to look around for her. I
made my way around the deck, frantically calling her name, but I couldn't find her.

"Lose somebody?" The voice was familiar, and as I turned around I knew who it belonged to even before I saw him. "Dano," I whispered. "Hey, buddy," he said, "how ya been?" I was speechless. He put his arm around my shoulder and started leading me to what looked like his front porch. "Come sit awhile," he said. "I've got something I want to show you." He stopped walking and stuck his hand in his pocket. When he took it out and opened it there was the biggest shark tooth I had ever seen sitting in the palm of his hand. It was polished and wrapped in a web of thin gold braid. "I got this on a swordfishin' trip I made with Wally," he said. There was a sadness to his voice and on his face. "I wanted to pass it on." He slipped it into the pocket of my T-shirt. I just stood there and looked at him, still unable to speak.

We started walking again, and my legs felt like rubber. Just as we were about to step onto his porch I felt a hard tug on my shoulder. "Time to get back to bed now," Wally said sternly. He yanked my arm, and I followed in his direction, through the wheelhouse and down the steps to the crew's quarters. He helped me into my rack and covered me with the blanket. "Now, you stay put," Wally barked. "Not a problem," I thought, since my body was totally exhausted.

I woke the next morning feeling like I had been beaten with a stick. Everything ached, especially my head. I groaned as I climbed the steps to the wheelhouse. Everyone was sitting at the table looking at me. Wally was the first to speak. "What the hell happened last night?" he asked. I got some aspirin and a cup of water and sat down next to him. "I'm not sure," was all I could say. Wally chuckled and said, "Well, I'll tell you somethin'. When I came out to take a leak you were about to walk off the side of the boat, ya dumbass. I grabbed yer butt just in time and put ya back to bed, and all the while you was mutterin' somethin' 'bout Dano. Hell, he's been dead a couple of years now, ain't he?" "Anyways, Cap'n says we're goin' in. We've all had enough of fishin' for one trip, and the weather's supposed to be turnin' bad. You go on below and get some rest." "The Kid here will take your watch."

I went below and climbed into my rack and wept quietly. When we got to the dock, Kath was waiting for me. "The captain radioed ahead," she said, a worried look on her face. "You okay"? she asked hesitantly. "Yeah, I think so. Just let me hug you," I said softly. I squeezed her hard, and then held her gently. She started rubbing her hand on my chest, but she stopped when she got to the pocket. "What's this?" she asked, as she reached her hand into the pocket. She pulled something out, and when she opened her hand I couldn't believe what I was looking at. There was the shark's tooth, polished to a shine and wrapped in thin gold braid.

I have no explanation for who those people were. Maybe their cruise ship sank in that area and they just hadn't figured that out yet.

I haven't been fishing since.

(This story is dedicated to my sweetlove, Steve, and based on a dream he told me once. He always had the best dreams!)

Take care! K

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What really happened . . .

In my previous post I thanked the captain and crew of the Jill L for taking my sweetlove out to his resting ground. Well, to be honest, I made that post the night before we were supposed to make the trip, and, well, the trip just never came off. I couldn't get hold of the captain to cement any plans, and I took yet another day off from work waiting for something to happen. I finally gave up and went down to the dock to look around for someone I recognized. While there were many boats there whose names I knew, I only saw one boat with a crew on board, and I didn't know any of them. I'm sure Steve did. But it has been ions since I had been down to the docks, and with all the restrictions and such that have been forced on the fishing community here, many of the boats I knew have been sold or are just no longer here. The same for the people. Time was, when I went to the docks I knew almost everyone, captains and crews. Where years ago I felt comfortable and amongst friends, today I felt like a stranger in a strange land.

I was just about to give up totally and go home when this tall guy with gray/red hair walked by me. Finally, someone I knew! Mark Twynam, the former owner of Triangle Fisheries. I introduced myself and explained what I wanted to do, and (bless his heart) he offered to take Steve out bike and all. I gave him my phone # and he called a couple of days later and we set a date - Oct. 1st - and a time - 5 PM. He also said I could bring somebody along if I wanted.

And so, me and my entourage of Bob (Steve's younger brother), and his partner, Debra, met Mark and his wife, Helen, at the Captain Easy, Mark's boat. The weather was beautiful and clear and there was a light chop on the water. We made Steve's last pass under the bridge while Bob was taking the cooler off the back of the bike. He figured Steve must have been messing with him because everytime he thought he had every nail and screw out, there would be one more holding the cooler fast to the bike! Eventually Bob won, Mark found a spot not too far off the beach and sort of in line with our house, and, as you can see from the pictures, the bike along with Steve's ashes, hat, and sunglasses was jetisoned over the side to the tune of Billy Idol singing Rebel Yell! He is at rest at 2746.92N latitude 8248.65W longitude.

Helen took most of the pics, and if those who know me don't quite recognize me, it's because I died my hair. Now, they call me Pomegranate!!

As we started back to the dock, Bob was giving Steve one last wave, and Helen said "did you see that?" I must have had my back turned, because Helen said that just as Bob waved a huge dolphin jumped out of the water! I'm sorry I didn't see it, and, unfortunately, the camera had already been put away - but I'd like to think that dolphin was letting us know that everything was okay.

And that is what really happened. My most heartfelt thanks go out to Mark and Helen for taking time out of their busy day to do that for Steve.

Take care. K (aka Mad Beach Maven)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Sendoff and the story of the Dixie Belle

The usual sendoff for a fisherman who is lucky enough to have a girlfriend is to wave to him and blow kisses from the dock until the boat is out of sight - then walk or bike or drive down to John's Pass Bridge and wait for them to come around the bend, under the bridge, and out to sea. You can stand out on the jetty and watch until the boat is past the horizon, or, if your eyes are bad, at least until you can't see the boat anymore. Kind of like Diane Lane in "The Perfect Storm". We knew Bobby and Billy Shaddock (Bobby was the one that went down with the Andria Gale). Steve actually fished with Billy down in the Keys until a hurricane forced them in.

But I'm getting off point here. Before my sweetlove went on to that big fishing ground (the big blue circle he called it) in the sky, I promised him that I would send him off in a way fitting to him and the kind of guy he was.

There are four things that Steve always, always had: a) some kind of hat, usually a straw hat or baseball cap, but sometimes he liked to wear what he lovingly referred to as his "Elmer Fudd" hat that his grandson, Ty, gave him. It was camoflage and even had ear flaps; b) sunglasses; c) a Camel filter (until they got too expensive and he started smoking Doral's); and d) a Budweiser. He warned me when we first met that he was "nothin' but a drunken old fisherman" . . . and that is exactly what he was. He made no excuses for it, and there was not a pretensious bone in his body. "I ams what I ams", he liked to quote from Popeye.

But that "drunken old fisherman" could work the deck of a gouper boat like no one else I've seen - and I have seen a few. He would be on the deck from sun up to until the last line was set and the deck was clean and ready to go for the next haul - no matter if it was dusk or midnight and usually long after the other deckhands had given up and gone in. And he did this not just for a couple of days or a week - an average trip is 14 days dock to dock. I was on one that went 18 (but that's another story).

Now I realize most of us have been out on a boat before. Whether it was a little bass boat or a "go fast" or a cabin cruiser. But on those boats you're sitting, unless your getting up to get a drink or use the head. It's not like that on a fishing boat. You are on your feet all the time when your out on deck, with waves hitting the boat from all sides. Sometimes little waves, and sometimes not so little waves. The boat rocks back and forth, back and forth. And sometimes it glides up on a wave and sometimes it "blams" down from aforementioned wave. I never did get my "sea legs". Steve, on the other hand, must have been born with his.

The very first trip we went on together was on a boat called the "Dixie Belle". It was an old wooden hull boat that had for sure seen better days. The Captain's name was Darrell Spence. The name was familiar to me from a story Steve had told me on our way down to Madeira, and I could have sworn this was the same captain that Steve insisted he would never, ever fish with again. But Darrell had about 3 days worth of bait he wanted to burn and he was willing to take me (the master greenhorn).

And, off we went, through the pass and out into the Gulf of Mexico. On this, my maiden voyage, I learned how to put a thread herring on a hook, how to pick the a clip out of the bait tray without getting it tangled up with the 100 other hooks in the basket. You see, when there are two setting gear, one picks the clips out of the bait tray and hands it to the other guy who then clips it on the line. This is repeated anywhere from 300 times to 1000 times - depending on how much line you have, the captain and the boat.

It turned out that this particular bait was mostly mush, and I learned the all important lesson that threads have sharp little fins that poke holes in your hands and sting for hours after your done for the day - even after a good long soak in some bleach water. Ow!

So we're catching a few here and there, which was in itself pretty exciting. Darrell hauled the gear and Steve helped me to keep up with the hooks. Empty hooks go in one basket (and with this bait there were alot of those), hooks that still had bait on went in another basket, and the ones with a fish on went on the deck where Steve would "tune him up" and gut him. Then the fish would be kept in a holding tub until the end of the line, and then put in the ice hole.

We even hooked a turtle. Pretty big one too. And I don't care what propoganda film you watch about fishermen killing too many sea turtles, my respect for my very first captain was cemented when I watched how gently he treated this turtle. It was hooked in it's fin and was still very much alive. Darrell brought the turtle as close to the boat as he could and cut the hook and removed it from the turtles fin. We stood at the gunnel and watched as it made it's way to deeper water. Pretty exciting stuff for a first timer. But it was about to get better.

Darrell, like many captains, did the cooking, so I washed the dishes. After dinner we would play cribbage. Well, Steve had just taught me how to play, so I was all wanting to "show off" my cribbage acumen, only Steve kept mouthing to me "let him win". I didn't understand why, but I went along with his wishes and threw every point card in my hand to Darrell, who still managed to lose. Well, I gotta tell ya, I've never seen someone go as balistic as this guy. He threw the cards in the air and I think he may have thrown the cribbage board over the side. It was really pretty funny. But at least I understood the "let him win"!

The second night on the boat Steve woke me up and said he heard a "funny" noise coming from below. He didn't know what it was, but he didn't like it. He "had a feeling".

The next morning the water was calm and there was a nice breeze blowing. Darrell was out on the deck with Steve and I was sitting in the wheelhouse in the captain's chair when all of a sudden something went "whirrrrrrrrrrrrrrr". Darrell came running into the wheelhouse wanting to know if I had touched anything. "Of course not", was my reply as I jumped out the the chair. He yelled to Steve to check the engine room. It was filling with water and mixing with the leaking diesel fuel which made this strange yucky stuff. We gathered up all the 5 gallon buckets we could find and started a bucket brigade with Steve in the engine room handing up full buckets of gooey water to me which I threw as far over the side of the boat as I could. Since I was on deck I could see another boat off in the distance, and since Darrell was on the radio, I was sure he was talking to the other boat. But poor Steve was down in the engine room absolutely positive we were going to sink. The one time he came up on deck and saw Darrell leaning back in the captain's chair with his feet on the dash talking on the radio he went a little haywire - to say the least. But Steve's instincts were right on.

I suppose I should have been frightened by all that was going on. But I saw the other boat getting closer and closer, and I totally trusted both Steve and Darrell. I never once thought that I might end up in the water - not until much later.

The other boat turned out to be the Sally Rose - Captain and owner Shithead (no lie, that was his name and I never did learn what his given name was), and deckhand, Marcus, who fit the description "strong like bull, smart like tractor" to a tee. I never saw Marcus wearing anything but the tightest pair of cut off jeans in the universe. The term "painted on" comes to mind.

I got to experience another first - crossing boats. I've got to admit I don't really remember how I managed getting from one boat to the other but there were 3 strong guys to help me so I must have. I ended up cooking a pot roast for everyone while the guys busied themselves with securing the Dixie Belle to the stern of the Sally Rose and began to tow her in.

She sank at the dock three days later.

And thus ended my initiation into the wonderful world of commercial fishing. I lost all my clothes to the clean up on the Dixie Belle (no rags on board) and ended up with a shiny pink one piece bathing suit and a long, white country skirt. But I gotta tell ya, I was hooked (no pun intended). Made $100 too.

Now that I've told you that story, I will return to the main point of this post. For several years Steve's main mode of transport was his bike (in the picture). He loved that bike and during his later years would not have been able to go anywhere on the beach without it. Soooo -

I filled a tall Bud can with his ashes along with a little of the other bud and ducktaped that to the handlebars. I also sent along a hat, sunglasses, a picture of me and one of his daughter, the key to his bike lock and the key to the house, and the fisherman's cross that I carried in my wallet because I just never got around to getting a chain. We had to fill the cooler with bricks and tie a couple of sashweights on it for weight. And he was sent off to his favorite tune - Billy Idol's "Rebel Yell". We talked about this weeks before because he kept wanting to give his bike to different people and I kept saying no. He finally asked why, so I told him my plan and he was pleased.

I'm grateful to captain and crew of the Jill L that took him out. And in true tradition, I waved and threw kisses until he was out of site.

This is not easy for me - just ask my coworkers - but I am joining a grievance counceling group through Hospice, and I have found that there is so much support for me at work that I am more grateful for than I can express in words.

Take care - and hug your partners every day - because you just never know . . .
K (aka Mad Beach Maven)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

"Because I'm not ready to go yet"

Those words were spoken so clearly and distinctly that for a moment I thought a miracle had happened and my sweetlove was somehow well again. But then reality set in and I realized that they were his last words . . . spoken to someone that only he could see. Someone who was trying to lead him into the next life. I did not go to him when I heard him speak. Perhaps because I didn't want to see him slip from my life into the next. A while later I heard a slight moan and then quiet, and I drifted off to sleep. When I woke I went to his side and held his hand. Where before his eyes were closed, his mouth wide open and his brow furrowed, now his mouth was closed and his eyes were wide open and his brow was unwrinkled . . . as though he was at peace at last and was looking toward whoever was there to help him cross over. He died on the 7th of September, just 4 days shy of his 61st birthday.

To say I will miss him is such an understatement. I cannot begin to convey the emptiness and loss that I am feeling now. I thought I would be relieved at his passing. I am anything but relieved. The sadness and loneliness are tenfold what I though they would be. This is it. It is permanent. There is no more "Steve and Kathryn". Now there is only Kathryn.

So how do I pay tribute to this man who was in my life everyday for the last 21 years? What do I say to let everyone know the kind of man he was?

He was a simple man. The quintesential hippie and wanderer who spent much of his life on the road hitchhiking back and forth across the United States and then out on the sea, fishing for grouper or swordfish or shrimp or squid. He was married twice. Once as a teenager and again to the woman who traveled with him on his hitchhiking adventures. He had a daughter whose picture he carried with him always but who he barely got to know before she died from an overdose at 25.

He knew many people, but held only a few close to him as friends.

His greatest joy was in making someone laugh, often making himself the cause of their laughter. Everyone I meet that knew him has a "Steve" story to tell.

He loved his grandchildren so much. Even though he was not tied to them by marriage or blood, he thanked me many, many times for bringing them into his life - for giving him a life. And he loved and had deep respect for my son, Tom, and my daughter-in-law Jennifer.

He loved his father, Robert, and was very proud of the relationship he had with his dad. He never failed to call him on Father's Day and his birthday.

And he loved his brothers, Bob and Tom. He always delighted in telling people about his older brother Tom the "DEA Agent".

And he loved me.

He never considered himself as anyone special, just a man who lived simply and enjoyed bringing a smile or a laugh to anyone he was with. And I have 21 years of memories to carry me through until we meet again in a better place.

I leave you all with the following:

Here is to calm seas and full lines wherever you are my sweetlove.

Catch 'em up!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Flash forward . . . 2009

Waiting has got to be the hardest thing to do in this world. No matter whether it is waiting for something really good, like your birthday or Christmas, or something really sad.

That is what I am doing now. Waiting for something really, really sad.

My sweetlove, my partner and best friend for the past 20 years, is in the throes of end stage liver disease. This is not a surprise for me. He first got really ill about 6 years ago and ended up in the hospital. He was there for about three days during which he had a few quarts of good blood pumped into him along with several tests and an MRI. He was told at that time that he had lost about 65% of his liver function and it was at the point where it would not renew itself. So, he quit drinking. For over a year. But he started again.

He was the kind of drinker who would pop a Budweiser at 8 am and keep on 'em all day and, after a quick "power" nap, start over and go into the night.

I've known this about him since that first weekend we met. What I didn't know was that while he could drink beer nonstop for days, he could also go without eating as well. I, myself, cannot go a full day without eating something, I just can't do it. I used to fuss at him about it, but I stopped after a while.

Then, about a year later, he got sick again and ended up in the hospital. After pretty much the same thing as the first time, when he was released he quit drinking again.

This stopping and starting has gone on for these last few years. I fussed, and yelled, and kicked him out of the house, only to welcome him back a few days later on the promise he would "straighten himself out." A promise surely meant when first spoken, but too easily broken when the bug would get him again.

Eventually, I quit fussing, and yelling, and threatening, and just accepted that this is what he was going to do regardless of how I felt. And I gave up the responsibility of it to him.

He would start and quit many times. But each time he landed in the hospital, he came back just a little weaker, the bounce back a little slower. Until this last time.

He had been trying not to drink for a few weeks. Especially since he had a doctor's appointment. But he had chest pains on Friday and I took him to the emergency room. They kept him overnight although the ER doc didn't think it was a heart attack he just wanted to be sure. It was Memorial Day weekend.

He came home seemingly healthy. At first, one of his feet swelled. That had happened before so we didn't think too much of it and figured it would go down in a couple of days. But it didn't. Then his other foot swelled, and then his legs, and he wasn't speaking very well, and he was easily confused. Then his belly swelled. That scared me enough to call his doc, who called Hospice.

Within the first few days of the first Hospice visit by the Nurse Practitioner, our home was filled with a hospital bed complete with a tray on wheels, a wheel chair, a walker, a shower chair. All the accouterments of being in the hospital without really being there. Our home is tiny to begin with, so the bed takes up most of the space. It has been here for two weeks now and I am still shocked to see it when I come in the door from work.

The Ol' Salt is very weak now. I have to have him repeat what he says sometimes 5 times before I understand what he is saying. The other day I stood in front of him and leaned in close to have him repeat so I could hear what he had been saying. Seems he wanted me to move so he could put his legs down and stand up. We laughed at that one. I told him he just should have said "get the heck out of my way, damn it, I'm trying to stand up."

And so I wait.

He won't use the shower chair because he says it is a pain in the ass. So he bathes on his own. But after he fell trying to stand up to get out of the tub, I help him to stand and get his barings. I made him promise not to take a bath unless I was there. He did.

And so I wait.

I try to make things that are easy for him to eat. I no longer make big meals. We eat mostly sandwiches and sometimes soup. When he has a taste for something I make it for him. Usually, he only takes a couple of bites.

And so I wait.

I was angry with him when all this first started. The realization that this was really it has brought on a plethora of emotions. And I am ashamed that I want sometimes for it just to be over. And then I think about how terribly I am going to miss him.

He made me laugh.

He still makes me laugh.

And so I wait.

And knit.

And start blog after blog, but not publishing because when I read back what is written, it is just too depressing. It is not the time for me to be lighthearted.

I can think of nothing else right now except what am I going to do when my granddaughter leaves on the 20th and moves to Massachusetts. My sweetlove will be home all day alone. So many "what if's" come into my mind. If I could, I would quit my job. But that is impossible.

And so I wait.

And pray. I pray that my sweetlove passes quietly and with no pain. Sometimes I wonder if he realizes that this is the end for him. If not, I don't want to be the one to tell him. I am not known for my tactfulness. And I would probably just burst out with "You're going to die, dumbass." "What did you think was going to happen?"

And so I wait.

And he worries because he isn't leaving me with anything. And I have to remind him of the last 20 years and all the memories I have. Because of him.

And so I wait.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Once upon a time . . . 1988

He was standing on the deck of a small boat wearing nothing but a dark tan, a pair of Levi's turned up twice at the cuff, a baseball cap, and sunglasses. My eyes were drawn to the line of sun-bleached hair that trailed from just below his bellybutton past the unbuttoned waist of his jeans. Lost in thoughts of what lay beyond that zipper, I was yanked back to reality by the sound of his voice. It was deep with just a hint of a southern drawl. "Looking for some?", he asked. My tummy was doing flip-flops as I managed a weak "Just looking for a place to catch some crabs."
Without hesitation he replied "Try the Foc'sle." "Ok, thanks," I said, a little puzzled at the reply, as I wandered off to find the others.

Later that day I ran into him again in the restaurant by the docks. "Hey, sugar, can I buy you a drink?" There was that gravely twang again. He had his sunglasses off and I could see the clear blue of his eyes. "Sure," I said, hoping he wouldn't notice how nervous I was.

It was during that first conversation that I learned he grew up in Ft. Lauderdale (me too!), he was turning 40 on the 11th of September (I had just turned 40 in May!!), he was single (so was I!!!), and he was working on a party, or head, boat. He was trying to save enough money to get back to Ft. Lauderdale to see his daughter for the first time in 12 years. I spent that rainy weekend with him in the little cabin on his boat. When it was time to go back home I thanked him for the wonderful memory he had given me. I gave him my phone number but never expected him to call - but he did!!!!

For the next several weekends I made the eight hour journey by bus from my home in Connecticut to the shore in Narraganset, Rhode Island.

He took me on the boat with him and taught me how to tie a rig, cut clams for bait, and filet a scup.

I listened with rapt attention to tales of his life on the sea. he told the worst jokes and the best stories I had ever heard.

We shot pool and drank beer and played "Rebel Yell" (his) and "Sweet Child O' Mine (mine) endlessly on the juke box at the Foc'sle . . . his comment from earlier in the day coming clear to me.

I was totally smitten.

Now, when I close my eyes, I see that day as clearly as if it were a photograph. I don't know what forces were at work that rainy Labor Day weekend that brought each of us to that fishing dock in Gallilee almost 21 years ago, but I shall be forever grateful.

Steve is my Sweet Love, my partner, my biggerst supporter, and my BFF.

Take care til next time. K (aka Mad Beach Maven)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Oh the Wells Fargo wagon is a comin' down the street . . .

I don't know about you all, but I just love getting things in the mail. Especially things that surprise and amaze me. I must admit that I hate going out to shop - the crowds, the parking, the traffic - all tend to make me not want to go even when it is necessary, like grocery shopping. Although, if I could order those online I probably would.

But I just love online shopping! And when I found that my Big Sis's daughter-in-law, Misty, was a candle maker and was also a contributor to the Out Of The Box web site, well, I just had to give it a try. My box arrived just a couple of days after ordering and, as promised, there were many delightful things inside:

And I've got to hand it to Michelle at Out Of The Box. I wasn't disappointed! There were many different items, all from crafters who make their own wares. There were yummy moisturizing lavender bath salts from Karlene all natural, as well as Sweet Pea and Jasmine from Divine Serenity Salts, and a little bag of aroma beads in a lovely scent called Amber (which is going to my office); a delightfully scented goat milk based soap in Almond Biscotti; and a very tiny chunk of olive oil/castille soap with a fruity scent (which I wish would have been just a little bit bigger as it went really quickly).

The pink package on the left in the picture above contained homemade marshmellows from Very Confectionate (which didn't last long and were delish!). There was a spray bottle of Lilac Body Spray from Bella Custom Blends (very nice and will surely be enjoyed). And if that wasn't enough, there were several melty/smellies: Nantucket Bay from Stone Creek Candle; Lemony Fresh and Mango Papaya from Southern Star Scents; and Winter Spice from Ugly Duckling Designs along with a full size votive soy candle in Sweet Orange and Lavender from Crow's Nest Primitive Shoppe.

And that's not all! There was also a cute retro kitchen magnet "Loud Mouth Lime" from Traci's Custom Crafter Magnets and a bag of all natural Cottage Vegetable Dip Mix from Cottage Creations Company which smells wonderful and will be tried very soon.

Misty has her own site, which I have mentioned here before:

as does Out of the Box which is also with Blogspot at

All in all, the $22 including shipping was well worth the treasures inside. And I think it is a great idea to provide a place for these crafters to display their wares and especially to offer samples like these. I will surely be placing an order or two for my favorites - if and when I can decide which items are my faves. They are all wonderful and kuddos to all the wonderful crafters who contributed.

Please give Michelle's site a visit and order your very own sample from "Out Of The Box". She offers one per month and supplies are limited.

Til next time, take care. K (aka Mad Beach Maven)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Have a safe and loving 4th

For those who don't know or who have perhaps forgotten, the following is a partial list of the correctness for displaying our flag:

Time and occasions for display
(a) Display on buildings and stationary flagstaffs in open; night display
It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.
(b) Manner of hoisting
The flag should be hoisted briskly and lowered ceremoniously.
(c) Inclement weather
The flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement, except when an all weather flag is displayed.
(d) Particular days of display
The flag should be displayed on all days, especially on New Year's Day, January 1; Inauguration Day, January 20; Lincoln's Birthday, February 12; Washington's Birthday, third Monday in February; Easter Sunday (variable); Mother's Day, second Sunday in May; Armed Forces Day, third Saturday in May; Memorial Day (half-staff until noon), the last Monday in May; Flag Day, June 14; Independence Day, July 4; Labor Day, first Monday in September; Constitution Day, September 17; Columbus Day, second Monday in October; Navy Day, October 27; Veterans Day, November 11; Thanksgiving Day, fourth Thursday in November; Christmas Day, December 25; and such other days as may be proclaimed by the President of the United States; the birthdays of States (date of admission); and on State holidays.

We won't be doing much more than laying around the house relaxing. I have two new recipes to try. A pasta salad made with sundried tomatoes and calamata olives and a strawberry shortcake cake. Both recipes are from Ree at I had wanted to do some planting, but according to my handy dandy celestial chart next weekend is the better time. I guess I'll work on the sweater I'm making - picture below. Hmmm, I wonder if my new great (great?) niece would like this. I find I enjoy making children's sweaters as they knit up alot quicker. I'm using natural wool in a darker grey than the one in the picture. The size will be for about a one year old. Any takers just let me know.
The precious model is the daughter of SouleMama from her blog of the same name. Go visit. She has much to offer.
That's it for now. Stay safe and take care. K (aka Mad Beach Maven

Saturday, June 27, 2009


What a week, huh? Starting with the sad, but not unexpected, announcement of Jon and Kate's breakup. Then the passing of first Ed, and then Farrah and Michael, and on the same day no less. I have to say that the coverage of Michael Jackson's passing has become somewhat redundant, don't you think? I mean, so much for Iran and the citizen's fight for democracy. Do I care that Michael is $4 million in debt? No. Do I really care about the custody fight that all the major cable news sites are insisting is going to happen? No. Do I really care what he died from? Isn't it kind of obvious? Do I really want to listen to everyone and their cousin's opinion on the who, where, why, and what of Michael? No. And don't even get me started on how all the sites just shoved Farrah aside, especially Larry King who, I would have thought, would have had more integrity.

Such a brave soul, Farrah. And she was so worried her life wouldn't have a purpose. I think her special had a profound effect on many, many people. And my heart goes out to her dad and family, and Ryan, Redmond, and Alana.

Now for my confession:

I am a reality show junkie. There, I've said it. It started with "Survivor", but I only watched the first 2 seasons. Then I got kind of busy with work so I wasn't watching much of anything. But then, I got a TV in my room . . . and that, as they say, was the start of it all. It started with "Deadliest Catch", which I watched with the Ol' Salt. That is about as real as a show gets. And I know that from experience - I was a commercial fisherman (yep, women are called fishermen right along with the men) fishing for grouper and tile fish in the Gulf of Mexico. Not exactly the bad ass waters of the Bering Sea for sure, but there were a couple of hairy moments with some rough weather. We watched that show each week in amazement - of the height of the waves crashing over the bow, to the amount of ice build-up over everything. Brrrrrr!!! There was a big contrast between the "fake" reality show (Survivor) and the "real" reality show (Deadliest Catch).

Then, when I got my own TV, and it was downhill from there. I was still respectible when I started watching the cooking contests - "Top Chef" and the Food Network's "Next Food Network Star". Even though on both shows the food was mostly out of my little box. I did learn what a meuniére, tapenade, duglere, and lyonnaise meant (look them up, you'll remember them better!). Then I caught up in Jon and Kate, and a great show "Little People, Big World". What amazing people Matt and Amy are. And I always get a kick out of seeing how messy her house is - now that's reality. But it slowly started spiraling downward from there.

I now find myself watching - prepare yourselves - Kendra and Denise. Not the Kardasians though . . . I haven't gotten that low, yet. All the music/talent shows are holding some kind of attraction for me. "Can You Duet", "America's Got Talent" (sometimes, and besides, where else could you see a man turn his feet around 180 degrees and walk around I ask you), and even "American Idol" (but with the sound down real low so no one can hear but me)! Thank goodness the Ol' Salt is going deaf!! Oh, yes, and the Tyra Banks "America's Next Top Model", but just the reruns of past seasons (as if that makes my addiction any less humiliating).

Oh, oh, and the new one just starting tonight - "Dance Your Ass Off" - I'm so excited!! Help me, please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Although, I do get alot of knitting done!

This is what Dixie thinks of the shows I watch!

Take care. K (aka Mad Beach Woman)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Heaven, I'm in heaven...

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!!! This is Dixie Belle's very favorite place in the world! Ft. DeSoto Park in St. Petersburg is one of the only doggie paw parks in this area that has a beach just for canines and their humans. We try to get there early, before the mobs come so she can acclimate herself. As you can see from the above picture that there were others of like mind! This was about 9:30 in the morning. There are dogs and multi-colored umbrellas as far as the eye can see...

There were little dogs...

and big dogs...

and dry dogs...

and salty dogs...hahaha!

and tall dogs...

okay, this is not Ft. DeSoto, this is really Dixie's BFF Ellie and she is standing in a beautiful, cool lake in Maine. Ellie and Dixie used to party together and took many fun trips to Ft. DeSoto. She is a Borzoi and could run the pants off any dog that dared to challenge.

For all the times we have been at Ft. DeSoto I have never seen a serious dog fight. It is quite amazing considering that at times there have been more than 100 dogs there at one time. Kind of like a canine Woodstock.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Things I have learned

If you look right in the middle of the above picture you will see a tomato plant surrounded by some very healthy parsley. It's a Big Boy and is doing quite well just outside my kitchen door. I was thinking about moving it out to the front where it would get more sun, but right now it is cooler in the back and although it is mostly shade, the tomato does get alot of afternoon sun. For now, I will leave well enough alone and see how it goes.

I want to send along a big thank you to Kate & Crew at Gardening Without Skills for a mention on her site for the Annie's Granny at Granny's Kitchen Garden Kreativ Blogger award. I cannot convey how thrilled that makes me. Especially since, compared with other bloggers, I'm a true greenhorn (that is Ol' Salt speak for newbie). It really is an honor. Thanks, Kate. It certainly is an incentive to devote more time to writing more often and to improve.
Now, on to the garden - or what's left of it. In this Florida heat (heat index was 107 degrees on my ride home Friday) most everything that is in direct sun is baked. But I do consider this small attempt to grow my own as a huge success!
I got several very nice and tastey tomatoes (at least the ones I could rescue from the black birds who took a liking to them - just the ripe ones though, not the green ones). I'm thinking mosquitoe netting next time. There are still a couple of hanger-ons even though the plants themselves are spent.
The carrots, even though I need to take a much heavier hand at thinning (either that or figure out how to sow fewer seeds in a row!) are excellent. Very sweet with a kind of spicey underflavor. I've added them to everything I can think of from pasta salad to cupcakes and meatloaf.

The pole beans also got a thumbs up from everyone. There just weren't enough plants to sustain us for the summer - we ate everything I picked pretty much as soon as I picked them. Definitely need more pots of them in the second planting.
I did learn a lesson from the summer squash and zucchini, however. One is not to plant them together. Each needs their own space. And that's second, much more space. I did find some long,
Rubbermaid containers that would be perfect.
Hmmm, this might just work out after all. Nothing ventured, nothing gained I always say. Okay, I don't ALWAYS say that but I do sometimes.
I am always searching the blogs I visit for new recipes. One that I haven't found yet is:

Stuffed Meatloaf.

How does one stuff a meatloaf you ask?

Just like this:

Most everyone has their own favorite meatloaf recipe. Mine usually consists of 2 lbs. of ground beef plus a pound of ground pork, 2 good handfulls of bread crumbs, one egg, a diced Vadalia onion, a cup or so of barbeque sauce, salt and pepper.

If I'm not going to stuff it I will add 1 shredded carrot, 1/2 a diced red pepper, diced celery, and some minced garlic.

I like to use Panko breadcrumbs. But if I don't have those, I have also used homemade crumbs from my own bread.

Two good handfulls of bread crumbs is enough. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.

Next, you want to flatten the mixture on a piece of plastic wrap or parshment paper.

If I am using broccoli, I usually par boil it until almost soft and let it cool some before spreading it evenly on top of the meatloaf mixture.

Then cover the broccoli with the cheese. I used sharp cheddar on this one, but I have also used Provolone and mozzerella too.
You can also use spinach or green beans inside too. You are only limited by your imagination here.

The next step is rolling the thing up. It's very much like rolling up a jelly roll. Starting at one of the narrow ends roll it up, pressing the veggie/cheese as you go, and put in pan with seam side down.
I smear more barbeque sauce over the top, then cover with bacon.
You can tell this isn't exactly a Weight Watcher's recipe, huh!
Then bake it in a 350 degree oven for 1 hr.
I usually put it under the broiler for a couple of minutes to crisp up the bacon. Looks pretty yummy doesn't it!
Serve with mashed potatoes and gravy. (I know this one doesn't have gravy on it because that is the one ingredient I usually forget so we end up just putting butter on the potatoes). This makes enough for dinner, plus lunch or leftovers for the next day.
And that is how you stuff a meatloaf!
Tomorrow we're off to our favorite spot, Ft. DeSoto. It is a beautiful state park that has the only beach in the area just for dogs. We like to go there because we (Me, the Ol' Salt, and Dixie Belle) can all go swimming together. Will come back with pictures!
Til then, take care. K (aka Mad Beach Maven)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Just want to say "thanks"

Soooo much rain! I saw a weather channel update that said we were more than 10 inches over our normal rain amount here is west central Florida. That's alotta rain!!!!!

My container garden has been trying to take in all that good rain water, but some faired better than others as you can see by the pictures. My poor zucchini and yellow squash leaves have had it, but the beans are setting more flowers - hooray - and my beautiful hydrangea has just blossomed! This was the poor lady who lost all (and I do mean all) of her leaves and left me feeling very sad - but my big sis, Toni, told me not to worry, that it would come back - and she was right, thank goodness! As you can see she is just full of blooms. I couldn't be happier!

The main purpose of this post is to say "Thank You" to all the blogs that I have been visiting since my discovery of this communication form, and for all of the useful information I have learned from them. It started with Martha Stewart and a show she did on blogging. After visiting her blog I checked out her list of favorite blogs and discovered:

Margaret Roach from A Way To Garden in upstate New York. She is a past garden editor of MSL and was featured on the show. Through A Way To Garden I found The Sister Project and May Dreams Garden.

Also from Martha's blog I found Deb at Smitten Kitchen, where I never fail to find some scrumptous and easy to make dish like the raspberry buttermilk cake that is featured on her site now. She just moved and is struggling to fit in to a smaller kitchen.

Through Smitten Kitchen I found Ree at Pioneer Woman and her writings on her life on a working cattle ranch. She is a delight and such a talented writer, photographer, cook, mother. Her kids are beautiful and the love and admiration she has for her husband is so refreshing. She just took a trip to New York with husband and daughters - visit her blog, I'm sure you will be delighted too. Love her recipes also.

And after looking for blogs from east Tennessee, I discovered Frances and her delightful and beautiful photos at Fairegarden whose kind and encouraging words influenced my decision to get a decent camera and to start taking photographs to record my garden progress. I keep threatening to move in to her shed, even though she tells me there is no electricity. As beautiful as her garden is I don't think it would matter.

And there is Kate and Crew at Gardening without Skills, who never fails (whether she means to or not) put a smile on my face with her musings of the goings on in her life. She's my Florida blog buddy and we are in the same planting zone.

Frances and Kate were among the first to leave comments on my blog, which is always a fun thing - knowing someone is out there actually reading (and hopefully enjoying) what I am writing about.

And then there is Rhonda at down---to---earth, whose blog from Australia is just full of useful information and instruction on living a simpler life. Her writing is so calm and direct and I'm always inspired by her ideas.

The first time I visited Susan at Farmgirl Fare and In My Kitchen Garden, I read her story on Cary the lamb (which made me laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time), and discovered she was living the life I had - several years ago - dreamed of living - on a 240 acre Missouri sheep farm. And while I would have leaned more toward yarn, I am still wondering how she can raise those lambs and then eat them! But I guess that is why she is living that life and I'm not. Nevertheless, she is the one who inspired my efforts to bake bread, which I discovered I really like doing. Her blogs are filled with wonderful recipes also. And her "Daily Dose of Cute" is always a pleasure. She has a collection of over 300 rocks shaped like hearts that she has found on her property.

Then there is Angry Chicken where Amy will delight you with her sewing creations (she actually makes home sewn underwear from clothing - really) as well as paper cutting projects and recipes. Always inspiring.

And I have to mention Kimchi and Whiterice and gardenpunks. These blogs I ran across by accident and have come back to them many times.

And finally, I have to add terra farmer. I went searching for a far away blog, and ended up here. Kanak lives in the north east in India. Her photos alone are worth a visit.

And I have a new blog location that I visit:

Misty is her name and her blog is filled with pretty and wonderful smelling candles and crafts. She is also my niece-in-law!

Most of these blogs are listed in my blog roll. Take a few moments and visit them. I'm sure you will be glad you did.

Again, my thanks to all of those whose blogs have inspired, entertained, instructed, and informed me. Take care 'til next time. K (aka Mad Beach Maven)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Shingles (not the kind on your roof!)

Hello and welcome to all who visit here. I must apologize for being away for, gosh, almost, well actually over a month now. But I have very good reasons. There has been much personal drama going on at home, which I will share at some time in the future. But the most interesting, albeit painful, experience has been my bout with shingles. For those who are not familiar with this malady (and I hope there are many) shingles comes from the chicken pox virus. Apparently, when you have chicken pox as a child the virus stays in your blood stream, floating around your body waiting for an opportune moment to strike out. Seems the moment for me was about 3 weeks ago. Mine appeared on my face, most noteably my right eye and forehead. It started with a very sore lump on my head just inside my hairline. Then more painful bumbs around my eyebrow sprang up. Of course the first thing the Ol' Salt advised was a trip to the doctor, to which I replied "I don't need a doctor, I can figure out what this is on my own". I went to work on a Wednesday, and by that afternoon I was in such pain I cannot even describe it. I took Aleves and a giant 800 ml. Motrin, neither of which cut the pain one bit. By Thursday evening, after researching on the net, I had my malady narrowed down to three things. I either had hives, scabies, or shingles. Nowhere could I find any evidence that hives could be acutely painful, just itchy. The scabies idea was taken from my dog, Dixie, whom you met in an earlier post. She is going through her seasonal sarcoptic mange episode and insists on chewing her butt on my bed, so I thought maybe I might have picked her mites up on my head. But the most fitting explanation came from several web sites on shingles. The only drawback was that I didn't remember ever having chicken pox when I was little. I remember measles and having to stay in bed with the curtains drawn so I wouldn't go blind (such a wonderful thought to put into a little girl's head), and I remember mumps and having to watch the Ice Capades on TV instead of going to the live performance with my sister (or maybe it was Peter Pan I watched - the original with Mary Martin), it was a long time ago. So, when I woke up on Friday with my right eye puffed out so much I could not see out of it, I broke down and went to an Urgent Care Clinic, calling into work that I would probably be in when I was done. Well, as soon as the Nurse Practitioner saw my face and heard my symptoms, she said "you have shingles". And because it was in my eye, she immediately made an emergency appointment with The Eye Institute of Pinellas County. Seems shingles in the eye could lead to blindness. Oh, boy! The second thing she said was "don't touch it, it's contagious" - to which I said "oh, now you tell me" - because I had been touching and rubbing the sore spots for three days! The news just kept getting better and better. So, off I went to the eye clinic. Got good news there at least. There was no involvement with the optic nerve, thank goodness. I received a prescription for a viral medication which I have been taking for a week now. There haven't been any new outbreaks of those nasty little blisters, but there are still a couple of lumps left on my head that make combing my hair uncomfortable - which is okay because I'm not much of a haircomber anyway, fingers have worked just fine thank you. And through all that I just have not been in the right frame of mind to sit down and compose. Mind you, I have started several entries, but somehow, even though they started out lighthearted and amusing, somewhere along the line they got maudlin and depressing. Could be because of the blue "funk" I have been in since the onset of my malady. (the picture above is not me - I didn't have the heart to photograph myself, but you get the idea - icky ain't it?)
But, I'm feeling much better now. Almost all of the crusty, scabby places on my faces have just about fallen off, and the pain is pretty much gone. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
All was not stopped, however. During my hiatus (which sounds like a vacation but wasn't) I made this really pretty baby blanket with hood. I got the pattern from a skein of Lion's Brand Pound of Love yarn. There were two patterns, one for crochet and one for knit. Since I knit better than I crochet, I chose the latter pattern. A sad story is connected with the blanket though. One of my supervisors at work, Kristina, became pregnant. Actually, there were four ladies in my work group who were trying or hoping to become pregnant, and Kristina was the first. We were all very happy for her, until she gave us the news that her baby may have Trisomy 13. For those not familiar with this (like me) Trisomy 13 is similar to Down's Syndrome, which is known as Trisomy 18. That means that an extra chromosome attaches itself to one of the 23 pairs of chromosomes that create a living being. In Down's Syndrome, the extra chromosome attaches to the 18th pair. So, in Trisomy 13 it attaches to the 13th pair. This creates all kinds of problems from webbed hands to heart problems to misshapen head. They first noticed problems with the baby's heart and, in the sonogram, the baby's hands. So, an amniocentesis was done, with the results coming back with the worst possible news. If you do any research about this, you will find out that these babies do not live much past birth, if they even make it that long. It was, I am sure, the most heart wrenching news for Kristina and her husband. Because she was pretty far along in her pregnancy - about 6 months I think - she and her husband, along with her doctors, made the hard decision to induce labor. This, I'm sure, was all the more difficult because the little one was kicking and moving in the womb. But in the end it was probably the best thing to do as they were able to have her for a short time and could hold her and even give her a bath. I learned this one day when Kristina and I had a moment alone and I told her about the blanket I had started. I asked her if she would like to have it, and she said that indeed she would love to have it. I was glad to know that even in her sadness she still had hope that one day she and her husband would again become pregnant. So I finished it and will give it to her tomorrow.
I also did something I never thought I could do:
I made an absolutely scrumptious (at least according to my granddaughter, Sammi) loaf of bread. I got the recipe from one of the blogs I read - forgive me, but I can't remember whose. I have been hunting for it, and when I find it I will post the rightful owner of the recipe. It's called Maple White Bread and if the owner of it by chance reads this blog, please let me know. If you would like the recipe, please leave a comment and I will be happy to give it to you. I just don't feel right printing it here in my blog without being able to give proper credit. I had been making a no knead bread, but the crust was coming out a little tough for the Ol' Salt and I knew I could find a bread recipe that wasn't too difficult and I got a winner first time. It smells wonderful and the inside is nice and moist. But the crust, well I can only say it is great, nice and soft but with an outer crunch. I'll bet it makes fantastic french toast.

Here's an update on the "garden". My maters are doint splendidly - beyond my wildest imagination! And what is harder to believe is there are absolutely no pests. No little green worms or any other bad bugs that I have seen. Look at my green beans. I am amazed . . . those are my babies!!! And so cute. I think it's going to be a bumper crop judging by the number of flowers there are.

The biggest problem I can see right now is what to do with the squash and zuccini. They are in the same box and planted kind of low, but they vine, and I'm not sure what I am going to do once they start growing out of room. Maybe hay . . .
I saw a much longer container that I think I will try next time. For now, though, things are looking really good. It gives me heart to think that I may actually be able to pull this off. Who knew?? Certainly not me. This month marks the one year mark. Although I don't think it has quite sunk in yet. The fact that I will be losing a whole paycheck when I retire doesn't sound too scary now. But come April of next year and I may not be so flippant about it. It's a major change coming and I just hope I'm up for it. I am so looking forward to not having to get up every morning and rushing off to work. I dream about getting up and having a leisure cup of coffee and tending to my garden and whatever else needs to be done. All those little things that I always plan to get to on the weekend but never seem to get to. I am starting a "To Do" list so I can track what I want to accomplish right away, as well as things I really want to get done. I can hardly wait . . .
Take care all and please leave a comment. K (aka Mad Beach Maven)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Easter's Past

Aretha Franklin move over - now THESE are hats!

I have no idea who these ladies are other than my ancestors and from my mother's side. But I had to save them and they are pretty old. How fancy our photos used to be.

Had a very productive two days off. Going by my "Stars/Moon/Astrological Signs" chart, Tuesday was a planting day. Started two hills of yellow crookneck squash and zucchini, thinned the carrots a little more (I abhor pulling out little tiny plants - that could be a carrot someday!) but I know is is necessary if the other guys are going to grow into the beautiful carrots on the front of the seed sack.

The tomatoe plant is totally amazing me. I might actually get some real tomatoes this time. I think moving them into the front yard has been the best thing. Last year, and the year before I had them in my back yard, and as a result suffered a losing battle with little green worms. I searched and searched the internet to find out what these little buggers were, and the only one I came up with was the Tomatoe Hornworm. Could not find what they looked like when they were small - apparently they just appear as these big, ugly caterpillers with horns that spit at you or bite you or something. But that is not what I had. My Big Sis tells me that they fall out of the trees - and somehow they know not to fall until there is a tomatoe plant beneath them! Whatever, I am still keeping a close watch on my babymater.

I also stuck some more beans in the planter. As I mentioned in the last post, I cheated and planted the beans the day after plant day and one strange looking bean came up (out of 6). So we'll just test the theory of the chart.

Also started some herbs. Chives, oregano, rosemary, and also some onions.

And now, on to the subject of this post:

I borrowed a scanner from the neighbors so I could put my collection of old family photos on my computer. While I was doing this, I discovered several pictures that must have been taken at Easter as everyone in the pictures is "dressed". As a little background I come from a family (mother's side) of hand crafters. My great-grandmother was a quilter. I remember her stacks of little squares, some from the local 5 & 10 (Woolworth's?), but many from our old pajamas and dresses and such. I cannot confess what I did with the 3 completed quilts I got when I was young, but I do have several quilt tops that she made and that "someday" I plan to finish.

My grandmother made all kinds of things, but I remember best her hat blocks and dressmakers body that she kept in her attic. What a magical place for me that was. Platform shoes and dresses and real fox stoles complete with head and tail! And ribbons, and ric rac and just so many things to get into. I spent hours up there when I was little. And it was she who taught me to knit.

My mother could do anything. I remember someone saying she even made my dad's tailored suits. She made all my costumes for dance school recitals. And I'm sure she and my grandmother collaborated on the Easter outfits. She could knit, sew, even crochet with her hands. Nice gams, huh!

This is four generations. My mother, Shirley, is standing left and my grandmother, Bubba, on the right. Then, sitting from the left - my Big Sis, Toni, my great-grandmother, Mamaw, and me!

Check us out! Matching outfits complete with hats, socks, capes, and flowers!!

Here we are at my grandmother's condo in Ft. Lauderdale. That's me far left, my mom, and my Big Sis. Not hats, but we do have flowers.

It seems a little funny to me that I associate memories with food and clothes. I can totally remember the outfit I have on, the way it felt (soft and comfortable) and the way I felt in it (very grown up and pretty).

Friday, March 20, 2009

Kudos to the First Lady

Hello and welcome. It has been awhile since I have added anything to my blog. Partly because I have too many things that I would like to write about and partly because I have been really busy at work and things have been kind of crazy at home. I did start several articles, but because I didn't have a clear idea of what I wanted to say, unfortunately they were abandoned.

However, with the news that Michelle Obama has broken ground on the White House lawn for a veggie and herb garden - surely everyone has seen her on CNN and many other news shows as well as many, many blogs spreading the news - I finally had something of substance to write about. I have signed every petition that I have come across sending the veggie garden idea to the President. I am elated and so very proud of our first family for taking the initiative and doing this. I truly hope that is gives others the inspiration to start their own family gardens.

In these times of hardship, to have your own veggie garden, however small, gives you hope and perhaps a comfort that no matter how bad things get you will always have something to eat. It was one of the reasons I started my own, and as you can see by the pictures I have tomatoe flowers - soon to be tomatoes!!!, and carrots, I can't tell you how good this makes me feel. Just to see the little tiny carrot seeds I planted actually sprout - I did that! Soooo cool. And all of my veggies are being grown in containers.

But this vegetable garden thing is not a new idea. Several past U.S. presidents had vegetable gardens on the White House lawn. Perhaps the best known was Eleanor Roosevelt who started a victory garden on the White House lawn in 1943, which encouraged millions to do the same in their own front yards. When WWII ended, home gardeners were producing 40 percent of the United States' produce. And Woodrow Wilson even kept sheep on the lawn of the White House!

The First Lady hopes that inspiring children will help spread the healthy eating message to others.

"My hope is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities," she said in an interview in her East Wing office. The plot of land given over to the new kitchen garden will measure about 1,100 sq ft. and will be visible from the street.

And this brings me to my new cause. Schoolyard gardens. I have become very interested with this movement, and have been doing alot of research on it as well. I came across an article by Brian Trelstad (google his name and you will learn who he is) on the history of school gardens in America from 1891 to 1920. It was interesting to discover that these school gardens emerged in hundreds of cities and manufacturing towns in the first two decades of the twentieth century. The push for this movement came from reformers like Fannie Griscom Parsons and her son who developed unique garden methods that reflected their own ideologies. Their efforts eventually started several national orginizations to promote the growth of urban school gardens. By 1915 three different bureaus of the Federal Government had committed resources to spreading the garden idea. The first American school garden was created in 1891. And in 1919, the United States School Garden Army had huge numbers of children producing food for the war effort. The school garden was used to teach children about nature, to green the industrial city, to Americanize immigrants, and to instill the ethics of hard work and patriotism. All of this was done to connect the landscape, the child, and the educator. I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.

To think that this forward thinking was taking place at the turn of the century, you wonder what has become of this movement. Modernization perhaps and the advent of processed foods. But when we take a look at all the poison that we have been feeding ourselves and our children, well, it just boggles the mind. Now I can take heart in the actions of our President and his family.

There are several organizations that are promoting school garden projects. Amont them are:

And this was what first got me interested in how we feed our children:

Just listen to the kids in this video and count the show of hands on who has a home veggie garden.

And can enough be said of Roger Doiron and the site for really promoting the idea of the White House vegetable garden.

Visit these sites and maybe you will become as excited as I am about what is happening in this country.

Okay, I'll step down from my soapbox now. But I have a little story to tell. I have been using a chart of astrological signs and moon phases to do my planting. My tomatoes were purchased, but the carrots, lettuce, spinach, and bush beans were all started from seed using my chart. Everything that is except the bush beans. I was a day late in getting the seeds into the dirt. Now I find that everything else is doing really, really well, but the beans, well, they are just not growing. The two that did come up (I planted six beans) had rotten tops and looked like something had chewed on the stems. Seriously. So, on the next plant day on the chart, I will try again and see what happens. I'll keep you posted.

Take care and come back soon. K (aka Mad Beach Maven)

Even Woodrow Wilson kept sheep on the lawn at the White House!