Friday, May 30, 2008

By Popular Request: Tea Animals

In my Friday Five post I had a photo of my breadbox, with the top covered in tea animals. Actually the animals are ceramic, they just come in a box of tea bags (Red Rose is the brand). When we lived in Minnesota, we could get the tea, but not the animals, because of something about shipping (so we heard). Now that we live in Maine, every box of tea Onkel Hankie Pants buys has a little ceramic animal in it. They come in series; I believe we're into Pet Shop now, having started with Noah's Ark when we got here. There may be Circus or Zoo animals too. A lot of our relatives here are tea drinkers, and OHP buys the tea in fairly small boxes. I think this is because it stays fresher; or else he just likes to get lots of little animals. Each time the new box is opened and a new little animal goes on top of the breadbox, there is great danger of one of the old animals falling off. Every now and then I have to move the breadbox and rescue the fallen.
Why does the Red Rose company do this? It appears to be a hangover from the days of Dish Nights at the movies and such. It sets them apart from the other teas. And, if you want a fancy ceramic pet shop, Noah's ark, or whatever to display your animals in, they will be happy to sell you one for some (to me) quite large sum. I wonder how many houses in Maine have a stash of tiny ceramic animals somewhere on a breadbox, a windowsill, or on a knickknack shelf. I bet it's a lot.

What I Did on My Spring Vacation

Sisterknits has been scolding me for my slackness in bloggage (bloggification?) and I must plead guilty. It's even worse because I've been regularly checking others' blogs and grumbling to myself when they weren't updated. So, here's the first of my catch-up blogs, reporting, some time after the fact, on my spring vacation to South Carolina.

Some might say that I do not need a vacation, not being gainfully employed, and I wouldn't argue. I certainly don't need one as much as the friends I vacation with, who all work very hard. But it's always nice to visit a different place, to see old friends, to do different things -- and then to come home.

We all arrived in Savannah on May 13 within an hour or so of each other, and piled into a rented Chevy Malibu (fantastic gas mileage) for the trip to An Island off Beaufort, SC. On the way we stopped at the supermarket and the Gay Fish Co. for food and shrimp, and Dempsey's farmstand for strawberries. On arrival, began the week of rest and relaxation combined with some cooking and just a bit of sight-seeing.

Some of the things we cooked: The Decorator, whose family has ties to Spain, made tortilla de patatas, gazpacho, and sangria. The CEO did the shrimp most of the time and made her special cocktail sauce, More Stately Mansion Brownies, and one special evening, Kir Royal with some pink champagne that had been languishing in the refrigerator. The Accountant brought a wonderful shrimp recipe from Lynne Rossetto Kasper's new cookbook, and I made several of the spreads I mentioned in an earlier post, from St. Martin's Table. One evening, Honorary Oldest Friend had us over for crab-stuffed chicken breasts and asparagus -- mmm!
Each year we try to do one "touristy" thing, and this year it was the "Gardens, Graveyards and Gospel" tour sponsored by the Old Commons Neighborhood in Beaufort. This is an integrated neighborhood just outside downtown, with both large and small houses and many inventive gardens. The graveyards (that we saw) were those of the Catholic and the Methodist churches; the Methodist one had been African-American since the Civil War. Both had well-prepared and hospitable guides who loved their history. Here's a gravestone from the Catholic cemetery with a sad story:

Lillie Small and her baby were lost as described. The baby was never found, but when Lillie's body was recovered a pair of baby shoes were found frozen to her skirt.

The gardens were quite different from those I'm used to. Evidently the paramount value in a South Carolina garden is shade. Instead of sunny gardens full of flowers, we saw mostly cool, shady gardens with many kinds of different (green) foliage and ferns. Just what one would want in a place where by mid-May it was about as hot as I would prefer in midsummer. Here's a photo of one of the gardens (I don't know why I got those odd bright spots, sun I suppose).
In the middle of the day there was a Fish Fry. It was sponsored by the Sons of Beaufort Lodge (Prince Hall Masons -- that is, African-American Masons) to help restore their hall. I didn't get a photo of the fishfryers, who were the Masons, but here's a picture of one of the young sailors and marines from the local bases who came to help out:

it brought home to me how we
in Uppity College Town will miss the servicemen and women when the Naval Air Station closes, partly because of the volunteer work they do in the community.

One of us had some knee and ankle issues this trip, so we didn't spend much time on the actual beach. But a is the classic Feet Picture:
I even took movies on my trip, although as you will see I still have a lot to learn about moviemaking with my little digital camera. However what really excited me about doing this was the audio portion where you can hear the birdsongs. So here are two very similar and very short videos of dawn on Harbor Island:


And last but not least, a bit of atmospheric music along with a photo of what they're singing about:

Friday Five: Garage Sale!

Welcome to your irregularly scheduled Fifth Friday Five, hosted by will smama and Songbird!
Since will smama is preparing for a joint garage sale with her parents, and Songbird's church had a Yard and Plant Sale last Saturday, we have five enormously important questions we hope you will answer:

1) Are you a garage saler?
Sometimes -- when they are convenient or I have a companion to go looking with. I find they aren't so much fun on one's own.
I also dearly love church rummage sales.

2) If so, are you an immediate buyer or a risk taker who comes back later when prices are lower?
If I really want something I buy it, because chances are I won't come back.

3) Seriously, if you're not a garage saler, you are probably not going to want to play this one.
(That wasn't really #3.)
3) This is the real #3: What's the best treasure you've found at a yard or garage sale?
Really, my breadbox (See below) although, while bought at a yard sale, it was brand new as far as I could tell and may have been a craft project of the sale-holder. Then again maybe it was a present they didn't want....

Of things that were definitely used, I'd say my CD called Street Carols, which is doo-wop Christmas songs. I always look at the books and CDs at garage sales.

4)If you've done one yourself, at church or at home, was it worth the effort?
At church, for many years I worked on the rummage sale and it was always a question. It seems to me we would net $3000 or so and of course I and my daughters would come home with stuff (one year I scored my stash of Real Handkerchiefs which I still use), and we enjoyed the fellowship (more a sisterhood except for the heavy lifting). And, since we had a LOT of clothing in good condition, it was obviously a help to some of the people who came to buy, particularly on "Bag Day." However, as lives changed, we decided to do without this fund-raiser.
Personal garage sales: the very first one I had was quite successful. I don't remember a dollar figure but we were impressed. Then later we had one or two that were absolutely pointless. Before we left City of Lakes we had a moving sale and that was successful -- not money beyond the dreams of avarice, but since we were interested in getting rid of excess furniture it served the purpose.
Our neighborhood is having one on June 14 and I haven't decided yet whether we even have enough "stuff" to make it worthwhile paying the $10 donation to join it! I'll be giving my books to one of the library book sales in the area so we may not have enough to sell.

5) Can you bring yourself to haggle?
Not over nickels and dimes, that's for sure. And I hate when people do that if I'm the saleholder. If it's a piece of furniture or similar, perhaps.
BONUS: For the true aficionado: Please discuss the impact of Ebay, Craig's List, Freecycle, etc... on the church or home yard/garage sale.
I'm not a true aficionado, but my daughter-in-law The Collector is, of these and also thrift shops. She definitely feels the pickings are slimmer as people are more knowledgeable about what they have and inclined to try for top dollar on eBay. (And alternatively, some post on Freecycle in hopes of finding the right person to give something to. I'd rather do the church or thrift shop thing in most cases myself.)

What a fun Friday Five -- I never cease to wonder how you all come up with the ideas!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday Five: Vacation Thoughts

Sally at RevGalBlogPals says:

It is a holiday weekend here in the UK, and the weather forecast for much of the country is not good!!! But we can still dream and so with that in mind I bring you this Friday Five.

1. Getting ready for summer, do you use the gradual tanning moisturisers ( yes gentlemen you too can answer this!!!), or are you happy to show your winter skin to the world?
I use at least SPF30 sunscreen if I'm really going to be out in the sun; I'm used to my winter skin by now, with a touch of sun showing now and then.

2.Beach, mountains or chilling by the pool, what/ where is your favourite getaway?
Beach, but mostly observed from a screened porch or similar shelter, as I really don't do well with a lot of sun. Sandy beaches, as I recently experienced in South Carolina, are great, but the rock-bound coast of Maine will suit me just fine, as long as I can watch the waves.

3.Are you a summer lover or does the long break become wearing?
I don't like really hot weather, but I do like strawberries and other nice produce available locally in summer; not having to suit up to go outside; I don't even mind the summer complaints too much.

4.Active holidays; hiking swimming sailing, or lazy days?
Lazy days, of course. If I feel energetic I find some work to do in the basement.

5.Now to the important subject of food, if you are abroad do you try the local cuisine, or do you prefer to play it safe?
Alas, I haven't been abroad in quite some time. But, I do like to try the local cuisine. Last week in South Carolina we went to a fish fry complete with hush puppies; and although in the North I drink my iced tea unsweetened, in the South I have "sweet tea."

No bonus this week unless you can think one up!!!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Off to the Beach!

Sisterknits said I'd better do a blog post before I take off, so here it is. Time that might have been spent blogging lately has been taken up with the previously-mentioned photo scanning project, with hanging out with Sonshinein, who arrived Wednesday, and preparing for a family party we had on Sunday so lots of the relatives could renew acquaintance with him.
Since a great many of our relatives are vegetarians, our menu for the party was vegetarian (it's just simpler that way). I got out the old St. Martin's Table cookbook and made 7 sandwich spreads from it to spread on little breads and pieces of baguette. Each one was delicious and, as I of course made too much food, we were still enjoying them today. In fact, Onkel Hankie Pants and Sonshinein will probably not have to cook tomorrow either unless they want to. We had a great time with the family, and there was a special project done which may end up photographed on OHP's blog.
Today was spent getting clothes ready and packing for the beach!
At about 2 am we will drive to the bus station in City by the Sea so I can take the bus to Boston and make a 6 am flight to Savannah. There I'll meet up with 3 of my oldest friends and we'll drive to An Undisclosed Location in South Carolina for a week of beach walks, maybe some swimming (tides and weather cooperating), shrimp eating, wine bibbing, and catching up. We'll also hang out with our Honorary Oldest Friend who lives there fulltime and has a dog almost as beautiful (and much better behaved) than mine. If we feel very energetic we may do one touristy thing. We'll probably go to the bookstore. Otherwise, being together is entertainment enough.
I have been very blessed to have these women in my life for (shockingly!) well over 40 years now. When I moved to their hometown in 8th grade I had the good fortune to be seated at a lab table in science class next to The Decorator. The CEO was in my English class and The Accountant in Social Studies (as was our friend The Boss who, once again, has some pitiful excuse for why she's not coming). Having now shepherded two daughters through the junior high years, I can appreciate even more fully how wonderful it was that these girls, who had been friends in some cases since preschool, opened their circle to me. How great to find kindred spirits and how many good memories there are of those three years (I moved again after sophomore year in high school). Their fruitless attempts to teach me to ride a bicycle...our "15 mile hike" when President Kennedy was pushing 50 mile hikes...walking to school with The Boss trying to get us all to harmonize on "Mary Hamilton"...sharing 25 cents worth of French fries at Cindy's, the local hangout...getting to school early to watch Sunrise Semester with our social studies teacher.... And then the letters back and forth during my stay in Germany. After my return to Maine and graduation, going to Connecticut to attend their graduation and ending up getting a job and staying all summer -- with jobs and the ability for some of us to use the family car, a whole new level of enjoyment! After college, marriage, cross-country and international moves, we didn't see each other very often for many years. A few years ago events conspired to allow us the first of the beach getaways and now they are an annual event. I am so grateful that our lives have -- not slowed down -- but changed in ways that allow us to make this time together.
Above and below, sights I'll be looking at this coming week, taken a year or two ago with my film camera and only developed last week!