“Shooting the Breeze”

Before it was turned into a “pub,” Home Tavern occupied a spot just off the highway near our old home in Portland. The area had once housed furniture factories, and clearly this was a convenient stopping off place for men to drop in after work. I say men because I only ever saw men there before it turned into a “pub.”The tavern was between our house and the large riverfront park, so I walked by its open door frequently. The small place emitted an unforgettable smell of cigarette smoke and stale beer, an odor I can still bring to mind just writing about it.

I could hear laughing, swearing, yelling and general camaraderie as I passed by. I could only guess what they were talking about, but figured it was raw, opinionated, and generally full of bull. I appreciated that they had their place to vent and relax after work, but I never had to learn their views on women, politics or the world. I didn’t figure I was missing anything.

That entire atmosphere seems to have been recreated on line. Between Facebook posts, tweets, comments to the newspapers and comments on comments, I now feel as if I have walked unwittingly into the Home Tavern. Sadly there is no one around to slap one of the writers on the back laughing at his point of view. Comments that once would have led to “let’s take this out to the street,” are now casually thrown back and forth. Most lacking is humor and a general understanding that it is all bull anyway.

Next time you get caught up in rants on line, imagine them coming from a man on his third beer loudly entertaining his friends at the Home Tavern.

“Age and Vaccine Acceptance?”

I was talking with a friend the other day and reflecting on the widespread acceptance of covid vaccine in people my age–over 65. In fact in Connecticut nearly 80% of adults over 65 have completed two rounds of vaccine and over 90% have had the first shot. Clearly the vaccine resistance prevalent in pockets of the United States is missing among my peers.

My first inoculation was a series of needle pricks on my upper thigh to prevent smallpox. I still sport the scar. I was also able to be prevented from diptheria and tetanus. Those were all that were available. As kids we got “hard” measles, German measles, chicken pox, whooping cough, mumps. Most of us came out from those illnesses with just pock marks from the “I told you not to scratch” remnants of the chicken pox. However both my brother and I had very high fevers with measles including hallucinations, a terrifying experience. The German measles, given to our pregnant moms, produced babies often deaf and blind. And some adults my age have the second round of polio effects, having survived the initial disease only to be further damaged later in life.

We rejoiced at the covid vaccine, remembering the relief our mothers felt as they took us to the mass distribution sites to receive out polio preventive on a sugar cube. We were glad that our children didn’t have to suffer the childhood diseases we endured.

I think that many young adults have no idea how devastating illnesses can be. Some are quite cavalier about not inoculating their own children against “minor childhood diseases.” And they dismiss the covid vaccine, certain that it is unnecessary. The percentage of younger adults remaining unvaccinated here reflects this belief.

Is that true where you live also?


As I enjoyed pictures of spring from around the blogosphere, I began to despair that the season would ever change here. Between a year lost to covid(I have heard that spring came last year, but I was too busy hunting for toilet paper to notice) and a long winter I had forgotten what a boost spring can be. Then I came out of the kitchen and saw our azalea just beginning to show its glory. Of course gale force winds and cold drenching rain are forecast for later this afternoon, so the blossoms may get destroyed. But I did see them and I did manage to photograph them before they blew away!

The deck is ready for company since in the end my husband put the chair together for me. The robins seem to have abandoned the eaves. A great pile of straw and little branches litters the porch. I don’t know the story, but there seems to have been some domestic disagreement about the proposed housing. Of course the robins aren’t airing any of their private business.

We have just begun to socialize with other vaccinated friends. Since most of us are “up in years,” we all got the shots as soon as we could. We actually had a couple over for dinner Saturday, thoroughly enjoying seeing each others’ facial expressions, freed at last from our masks.

And the policeman in Minneapolis was convicted of the murder that viewers around the world saw take place.

Finally a cluster of good news!

“New England Weather”

Two Tramps in Mud Time by Robert Frost

Robert Frost, the poet, really understood the kind of weather we have had this past week. One day it was 70 degrees and we sat outside in short sleeved shirts and soaked up the sun. Two days later it was 32 degrees and lightly snowing. The weather in New England can be a trickster for sure.

“Handy Help”

The day before the temperature dropped thirty degrees declaring it was still winter, a new chair for our deck arrived. I had ordered it on a sunny spring day, certain that when it arrived we could put it out next to its twin and enjoy the weather. The rain began to come down so hard my husband had to haul the box inside for me to assemble. In my imagination the chair arrived put together, but I hadn’t read the description carefully enough.

As I looked at the flat carton, wondering how a swivel rocker could possibly fit inside it, I saw a note directing me to BILT, a phone app promising help putting the parts together. Dubious, I downloaded the app and watched the video, complete with audio, that had been produced to help someone make the chair. Usually the directions from purchases from China(as was this chair it turned out)are in pictures and arrows and leave me completely confused. Apparently I am not the only one who has had this experience. Hence the BILT app.

Sure enough the video was clear and the pictures were provided for each step. A friendly sounding woman narrated the process. Three times she cautioned to not cut the strings holding the swivel device in place. Thankfully I had not opened the carton because I am certain my first impulse would have been to cut the strings.

So the box is in the living room. The instructions are on my IPad. But it is winter outside and my incentive to assemble the chair has disappeared. Maybe tomorrow!

“Do You Have the Recipe?”

I am a self taught cook and I began with baking. Measuring ingredients is an essential part of baking. In fact in recent years I have even used a scale to get the precise amount that a recipe requires. In tricky baked goods my “just about a cup” isn’t good enough. I have a drawer full of various measuring cups including 2/3 and 3/4. Three different sets of measuring spoons hang from the backsplash over the kitchen counter. I know the difference between dry measuring and liquid measuring and use the appropriate cups for each. In short I understand baking as a mathematical activity giving me a chance to frequently use the fractions I learned in grade school.

My first husband cooked by sight, taste and smell. He had grown up with a mother who never consulted a cook book and he had an acquired understanding of how to make a meal from whatever was on hand. He frequently called what he made “gumbo,” but it was never the same meal twice. I was constantly in awe of this talent as I continued to consult cook books to make dinner, applying the same baking rules to cooking.

Recently Sam Sifton, of the New York Times, published an article promoting his newest cookbook called, ironically enough, No Recipe Recipes. He shared a pork chop dish and gave approximate amounts for each ingredients. Basically he was demonstrating in small steps what seasoned cooks, unhampered by the rules of baking, already know. Sight, taste and smell can guide you as you make dinner. At 73 I am just beginning to consider that cooking doesn’t have to be “by the book.”

Baking, however, will continue to be my forte. Things turn out just like the pictures because I FOLLOW THE RECIPE.

“Return of the Robins”

If you look carefully under the right hand side of the overhang, you can see the beginnings of a new nest for the robins. You might notice several other objects including a covered smoker, a covered patio heater, a porch swing and parts of two chairs. Normally the juxtaposition of these objects and the nest might be interesting but nothing more. But in the case of this nest and these deck furnishings, an intense territorial dispute lies ahead.

I had hoped that the ongoing conflict between family members wanting to enjoy the deck and the robins trying to protect their nest would not be repeated this summer. Perhaps, I thought, they would move their nest to avoid these clashes. Apparently they held out a similar wish that they could have the deck to themselves. No such luck for either of us.

Last summer the robin had three separate broods of eggs, topping the average of two. But this robin mother was not only fruitful but also seemingly “possessed” according to the children wanting to sit on the porch swing. She saw her nest as the perfect launching pad for aerial assaults on those below. She never actually collided with anyone, but she certainly made relaxing on the deck a concept more than a reality.

First a war on zoysia, soon the revenge of the robins. Who says retirement is drama free?

“War on Zoysia”

Invasive – Zoysia grass is a very invasive grass. The reason you can plant plugs and not have to seed the lawn is because zoysia grass will crowd out all other species in the lawn. Then when it has taken over your lawn, it will start in on your flower beds and your neighbor’s lawn.

My husband sees zoysia grass as a personal affront to his efforts in the front lawn. Since this early spring has been very dry and the ground has already thawed, he saw it as the perfect time to attack the zoysia patch. A massive undertaking involving digging out very deep roots, separating the sod from the dirt, and disposing of the thatch makes way for a compression of the soil and replanting of a DIFFERENT VARIETY of grass seed. He used the same routine on the patch of grass between the sidewalk and the street last fall and was rewarded by a lush growth of grass without zoysia. He hopes to have the same result on this larger area between the sidewalk and the house.

Since we live on a busy street, he has numerous interactions with curious passers-by. Most people cannot understand his hatred of zoysia. In fact there seem to be people who actually plant it on purpose. Needless to say this makes no sense to him. He does offer them a shovel when they talk too long which spurs them to move along.

I suppose each of us who works in our yard has a particular nemesis. As a child I constantly was recruited to clear the invasive Himalayan blackberry vine from our property. As a new homeowner I fought morning glory which twined its way around everything in sight. Not to be confused with the morning glory people plant on purpose, this invasive intruder was impossible to kill. Some people shudder when a dandelion pops up.

Do any of you start wars outdoors?