The Evolution of Winter Prep

MiMi is always ready for a cat nap.

MiMi is always ready for a cat nap.

New England is known for being the land of four seasons, but what isn’t often mentioned, is the degree to which those seasons overlap. People will be fertilizing their lawns, repairing and preparing their pools and preparing flower beds in April and May while still living under the threat of frost and possibly snow. This past year’s garden was still producing tomatoes, peppers and beans well after the calendar said it was autumn. And now, the most serious seasonal overlap is upon us. Cleaning up after fall while preparing for winter.

It’s really the same thing.

If it wasn’t for the potential early arrival of winter, we wouldn’t hurry through fall clean-up. Leaves could lay in the gutter, if they weren’t going to block the downspouts and cause ice dams. Leaves could stay wherever they happened to land, if there wasn’t the possibility that they would add fiber to a wintry mix and make it something you have to chop through rather than shovel. Yes, I speak from experience.

The first time you realize that you have to rake all the leaves before it snows, occurs when your first child is old enough to want a snowman. When you roll up those balls of heavy wet snow and they’re covered in a hobo-snowman coat of leaves and pine needles, you get the message.

My early days in this climate were in a rental house with a short driveway which we shoveled. Being ready to shovel meant that you had one job to prepare for winter, make sure the shovel was accessible. Trudging to the shed, kicking the snow away from the doors to retrieve the shovel is something you only do once. That would have been 1983. A similar-sized house with a detached garage sitting in the back yard, required the addition of a snow blower. A machine. A machine that requires gasoline, oil, shear-pins, air in the tires, protected storage, an overhead light, and enough room to pull the starter chord without hitting your elbow on anything.

In other words, a bigger shed.

During spring, summer and fall, the shed is in LUFO mode (last-used-first-out). Lawn mowers, leaf blowers, rakes, shovels and whatnot are all left near the door of the shed, ‘cuz tired & sweaty, only to have to be moved out of the way on the next visit. It works. We moan and groan about it, but we’re the ones who did it, so… But, in winter, the snow blower is king of the shed. There’s no option to move stuff out of the way because you have to move the snow that’s piled up in front of the shed first. The snow blower sits alone, pointed toward the outward-opening doors.

This was the final weekend of winter prep. The schedule is dictated by the town. Tomorrow is the last day that they will pick-up bags of leaves at the curb, and Saturday was the last day the leaf dump was open. Whatever you didn’t pick up this weekend, you have to live with until April.

We were almost done anyway. Thanksgiving weekend, I sucked-up and mulched most of the “good” leaves for my wife to till into her garden. Oak (acidic) leaves got bagged to the curb. This weekend, after bagging the last of the oak leaves, I set out the snow stakes. These reflective little poles tell me where the pavement ends and the grass begins. They also tell me where the base of the firewood racks are and where the stone path in the yard curves. This year, they also are holding up what looks like a Caution Tape boxing ring.

That would be my wife’s garden. We’re trying the caution tape as a visual deterrent to keep Maddie out of the garden. We’ve tried wooden stakes and rope, but Maddie loves to jump the rope and when she misses, the wooden stakes break under the pull of the dog-entangled rope. These stakes are higher and unbreakable. The black and yellow color of the Caution Tape may be meaningless to my wife, but it wasn’t lost on me – Go Steelers!

The poles are flexible, so they required flying buttresses (other poles) for strategic reinforcement. It worked. Initially. See, I have a video to prove it. Maddie walked and ran around the garden, but stayed out.

What’s the appeal of the garden? The mulched leaves and some of the plant material that are tilled in, are basically worm food. The organic material will decompose, some on its own and some after being consumed by worms. The mix already smells like something Maddie wants to roll in, but when it becomes a big pool of worm poop, Maddie’s all “I gotta roll in that!

I was looking forward to showing the video to my wife and proclaiming how I outsmarted the dog. Then, my wife came outside. She threw Maddie her favorite ball and Maddie stepped between the rows of Caution Tape and laid in the garden. She gets a look on her face that makes us think she’s saying “but my ball was in here.”

Posted in Humor, New England Life, Pets | Tagged , , , , , , | 33 Comments

It’s a Guy Thing

For the love of beer

The perfect place and beverage to share some casual conversation.

“Hi Cheryl, did he leave already?”

“Nope, he hasn’t been in all week.”

“That’s weird. Oh well, I guess I’ll start without him.”

“House Lager?”

“Yeah.”

“Here ya go. I’ll be sure to tell your buddy how concerned you were.”

“It’s a guy thing, Cheryl. It’s not that I don’t care. It’s more like I just assume he’s busy.”

“You sure it isn’t that you don’t care? You could call him.”

“We call each other sometimes. Just the other night I was busting him about that UConn game.”

“Whoa, I’m five minutes late and you’re halfway through a beer. I hope that’s on your tab.”

“Nope, that’s the price of being late. I was worried.”

“Some wine? And he wasn’t worried.”

“I know what he means Cheryl. It’s a guy thing.”

“A guy thing? It sounds like, if you got hit by a bus, he’d turn the other way and yack it up with the next guy.”

“He would…”

“I would…”

“Anyway, why are you late?

“I had to stop at Home Depot.”

“Home Depot? You? What on earth for?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It’s not like you’re Bob Vila. You’re the kind of person that has people do the things that require stopping at Home Depot.”

“I needed light bulbs. I don’t have ‘people’ that change light bulbs.”

“Light bulbs? You can get light bulbs from the guy up the street. Why would you go to Home Depot for that?”

“I needed a replacement bulb for a lamp I bought there. I figured they could look it up for me.”

“Why not take the old bulb?”

“It’s Halogen. I heard you aren’t supposed to touch them.”

“It’s burnt out! You aren’t supposed to get the oil from your fingers on the bulbs when you put the new one in.”

“Look, you said it, I’m not Bob Vila. I don’t know this crap. That’s why I go to Home Depot.”

“Did they know?”

“No.”

“Do they still carry that lamp?”

“No.”

“So, what did you do?”

“I called my wife. She took the bulb out and read me the number. Then the guy helped me download the Home Depot App and I looked up where that bulb is in the store.”

“Cheryl, put another House Lager on Mr. Edison’s tab.”

“He hasn’t even ordered his wine yet and you’re smacking him for a second beer? You really don’t care about him, do you?”

“No, not really.”

“I haven’t ordered because I’m trying to think of the wine I was drinking last summer. The lighter red stuff.”

“Why don’t you download their app?”

“You don’t need an app, just a good bartender. Although maybe you want to download one of those Tip Calculators…just sayin.”

“I’ve learned my lesson, Cheryl. Next time, I’ll take the old bulb to the hardware store, and I will surprise you today with a decent tip for your more than adequate service.”

“More than adequate? Way to compliment her.”

“Hey, I don’t care what he wants to call it. As long as he backs it up. Actually, I’m just picking on you guys. I like having you at the bar and you always treat me pretty well.”

“Speaking of compliments, what happened to your blog on Thursday?”

“How is that related to compliments?”

“Well, it’s not. That’s the point. Your photos normally look better, and you usually have nice descriptions. When I looked, the photos were crooked and all I got was DCS-something-something -something.”

“It’s a long story. Our Internet died on Thursday.”

“You have COX, right? Did you fix it with their new app?”

“Their new app is as useless as their old customer service.”

“I haven’t actually downloaded the app; I just keep seeing it mentioned on their bill.”

“Well, when you download the app, it will tell you about your bill.”

“Huh?”

“When you open the app, the top half of the home screen tells you, in big bold numbers, how much money you owe them.”

“How nice. Do they actually have the reset feature?”

“Yes, but it doesn’t seem to work. I’ve tried it twice, and both times, I still had to unplug the modem, wait 30 seconds, and plug it back in.”

“Geeze, you could have called their Tech-Support line and gotten that advice.”

“Actually, I tried the Live Chat feature.”

“How was that?”

“Awful. First, after entering all my personal information to register the app, and entering my name to start the chat, the guy told me I had to enter my name, phone number and complete address before he could chat with me.”

“Couldn’t he look that up?”

“He said they don’t have access.”

“I hate that. What’s the point of keeping that information in 10 different places, that will all eventually be hacked, but not having it where you need it?”

“I know. I gave it all to him. He tried resetting my modem and when it didn’t work, he offered to send a technician to my house between 1:00 and 5:00 on Saturday.”

“That’s now! Did you tell him you had beer to drink and wings to order?”

“I did. Then I unplugged the modem.”

“When we were kids? My dad used to hit stuff that didn’t work. I miss those days.”

“You miss hitting things?”

“I do Cheryl. It was cathartic. The TV would be all cattywampus. You’d give it a smack and the picture would settle down.”

“That must have been the ultimate guy thing. Here’s your wine.”

Posted in Friends, Humor, If having a beer | Tagged , , , , , | 70 Comments

Strip District Doors

dscn7368Last year, I mentioned Pittsburgh’s Strip District in a guest post on a series called “Walking with Intention.” I republished that post here on my blog but I left the Strip District as a back story. I talked about the Strip again in a post after Faith and I visited Pittsburgh in 2014, but, since I had not yet contracted Canadian-Door-Fever, I wasn’t interested in taking photos of doors.

Canadian-Door-Fever is also known as Norm Frampton’s Thursday Doors. Each week, Norm gives us the opportunity to find, photograph, publish and share photos of interesting doors. If you want to join us, you need to visit Norm’s blog, look at Norm’s doors. Well, you don’t have to look at Norm’s doors, but it would be the polite thing to do. Click on the blue frog thingie and arrive at the land of doors.

In early November, Faith and I were back in Pittsburgh for another weekend of sports. As we did in 2014, we decided to visit the Strip District, but this time we were on a mission. Well, dual missions. I wanted to get some door photos. Faith wanted pierogis and potato pancakes from S&D Polish Deli.

Ever since the early 1800s, the area of Pittsburgh known today as the Strip District has been an important part of the Pittsburgh economy. Once home to mills and foundries, the Strip evolved into a warehouse district and wholesale distribution center. There have always been a few retail-ish stores in the Strip. I added the “ish” because these stores have never been for the faint of heart. You generally had to know what you wanted before entering and, long before warehouse clubs were a thing, you needed to be prepared to purchase a larger than retail quantity of that stuff you wanted. Today, the Strip is a tourist destination, with a side of groceries.

Stamoolis Brothers is a grocer in the Strip that features food, snacks and ingredients used in Greek and other ethnic cuisines. My favorite childhood memory of Stamoolis was walking out with a 5-pound bag of Pistachios. At that time, it was common to find the somewhat little red pistachios, in grocery stores. Stamoolis carried the “jumbo” white variety. The kind you could almost always break apart with your little-kid fingers.

Right next to Stamoolis Bros. is Penn Mac a.k.a. The Pennsylvania Macaroni Company, where you can buy cheese and everything you need to wrap around cheese, put under cheese, coat with cheese, serve alongside cheese and eat after having eaten cheese. You can probably get macaroni there too. My wife buys from Penn Mac, which will put meat and cheese in a cooler, along with a few pounds of dry ice and ship it anywhere on the planet.

A little farther down the Strip is the deli Faith was looking for. More meats and cheeses on sale, but tucked away closer to the back of the store is a window through which you can order food. This isn’t fast food. This is “that’ll be about 15 minutes” food, but it’s worth every minute.

The first gallery is full of doors and photos from the Strip. Please understand that I have pared the list of photos down to as few as I can while still preserving the essence of our visit. This will result in a “Random Pittsburgh Doors” post on some future Thursday, but I didn’t want to break a record for photos in a doors post. Also, note that there is a second gallery today containing food. Food that was on sale, food that was purchased and food that was eaten. That gallery is there because, if I didn’t include it, someone would say “Dan, you can’t talk about food without sharing some photos!” You are under no obligation to look.

I’ll stop talking now. Click on any photo in either gallery to start a slide show of that gallery. The descriptions will be late, because of Internet issues.

Thanks for looking around today!

 

Posted in Family, Thursday Doors, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 73 Comments

Nothing For Me

I know it’s not “one line.” I could emphasize one line out of the dialog, but I think it works better with the whole conversation being treated equally. I’m not sure whether the final decision is the result of good bartending or good bourbon, but it caught the attention of a few people at the bar.

“Something to drink?”

“I’ll just have coffee.”

“We don’t have fresh coffee. I can make you some hot tea.”

“That would be great. I’m just not in the mood for alcohol.”

“You want a splash of Tennessee Honey in that?”

“Ooooh, yes!”

And there ya go.

This post is part of Linda G. Hill’s fun weekly One-Liner Wednesday challenge. Hopefully, Linda will let this one slide, especially since it’s under 200 words (which is remarkable for me).

Note: The gallery is kinda-sorta unrelated. It would have been related, if the photos had been better (I would have used a different one-line). We had one really hard frost. I tried, and largely failed, to get some close-up shots.

One Liner Wednesday

Posted in Humor, One Line Wed | Tagged , , , , | 39 Comments

Step Into the Light

Off we go.

Off we go.

I’ve been dwelling on a particular disk in the Twilight Zone DVD set for the past few weeks. It’s not like I watch it every day, but each time I go to eject it, I decide to watch a couple of episodes one more time. It’s from season two, and it features the last five episodes. Some of my favorites are: “The Silence” – “Shadow Play” – “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up” – “The Obsolete Man” – the latter being among my top-5 favorite episodes.

I’m not going to talk about these episodes. If you’re interested in some insight into this wonderful show, you should spend some time at Paul’s blog. Besides being some of my favorites, these episodes have me thinking about, of all things, social media.

“Huh?”

I hear you mumble under your breath.

Consider a few themes that are present in one or more of these episodes:

  • Controlling people with illusions
  • Attacking the value of men, and mocking the values they hold dear
  • Clinging to a point of view, while facts mound up against it
  • Manipulating people by playing to their base fears
  • Ignoring what might be true, because “it doesn’t fit our formulae

Social media is rife with these themes today. In fact, I’ve resorted to posting pictures of my pets.

That’s because the simplest brush with a newsworthy item can bring fierce combat from multiple fronts. I’ve seen the comment sections of posts by people I follow, turn into a battleground of vicious discussion opinion. I crossed that out, because I see very little discussion. It’s one person’s opinion stacked up against another person’s opinion. Each are often bolstered by links to dubious sources, or claims to “have heard,” “have seen” and the ever popular “everybody knows.

On the other hand, a friend of mine and I have been having actual discussions for many years. Often, when I hang up the phone, my wife will ask: “did you solve the world’s problems?” Even when we don’t agree, our conversations are littered with phrases like: “that’s a good point” – “I hadn’t considered that” – “I didn’t know that” – “I need to get more information about that” and, believe it or not: “you know, you’re right.”

Thank goodness for those conversations and for Thanksgiving with its pictures of turkey and pie. So much pie. Pie has become my refuge on Facebook. I seek out posts about pie. Pie, kittens, other small animals and wonderful scenery from warmer climates.

I plan to continue skipping the opinion posts, including the ones that start with “you have to read this!” because I don’t want to be drawn into the anger and the hatred. Because even if I only press “Like,” Facebook will alert me to each new comment. It’s easier to avoid the chaos on LinkedIn and Twitter, but not because they aren’t both minefields of misinformation.

Despite Mark Zuckerberg’s (and others) promise to root out lies, false news, hate-speak and bullying, I think they’ll tolerate anything that makes money.

It’s not that I’m not moved by or interested in current events, I am. I’m just finding it harder and harder to find information sources that I trust.

I’m not alone.

While we weren’t paying attention, “Fact-based News” became a thing. You can google that. I’m not including a link, because the only ones I can find are to purported fact-based news sites, and I don’t trust them. My question is: “when did being based in facts, differentiate one news source from another?

Based on my reading, some will say it was when cable networks turned news into 24-hour entertainment. Some blame the Internet. Some say that: “it hasn’t been the same since Walter Cronkite anchored the CBS Evening News.” I miss Walter. Still, there are people who claim that he was somehow involved in NASA’s efforts to fake the moon landings. So I guess there’s nothing new in the land of make-believe.

Until things settle down, you can expect more pictures of my pets.

Speaking of which, this post was conjured up during a walk in the fog with Maddie. Fog makes us work harder to discern the truth about our surroundings. Maddie didn’t seem to have a problem with it. The gallery includes some photos from that walk, and our walk the following day, under sunny skies.

Posted in Opinion, Perspective | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 91 Comments

Update From the Bar

I don’t normally post on Sunday but I thought a quick update to yesterday’s post was in order.

Pitt beat Syracuse in the highest scoring game in FBS history. Final score, Pitt 76 – Syracuse 61. I guess neither team brought their defense.

img_0480

WVU won in Ames, IA, beating ISU 49-19 and cementing their best year since joining the Big-12 in 2012. Next week, they go after John W. Howell’s Baylor Bears with a chance to rack up their 10th win.

img_0479

And, UConn won the race to the bottom of the AAC, as Tulane pounded them 38-13. My buddy would be ordering more wine if Cheryl worked the breakfast shift.

img_0481

Posted in If having a beer, Sports, Uncategorized | 18 Comments

The Return of Lager

Looking for something?

Looking for something?

“You’re late again. I ordered my wine and I told Cheryl to put it on your tab.”

“Well, how nice of me to buy.”

“I’m sorry. I spent Thursday with a tough crowd. I needed something to be thankful for.”

“I see. Nothing like being home for the holidays. Enjoy the wine. I suggest we watch some football and not speak of your dreadful day.”

“Hey there, Dan I’ve got something for you to be thankful for today.”

“Well, it certainly isn’t the companionship of Mr. Sunshine, here.”

“No, he’s too far gone. But check this out – Lager – on-tap!”

Jack’s Abby House Lager? I’ve never heard of it.”

“Here, have a taste.”

“It looks pretty light…mmm, that’s not bad, not bad at all. I understand I have a tab open, put one of these on it.”

“That looks like Bud Light.”

“Maybe you should hold it for a while. I’m guessing that would darken it up.”

“Good one Cheryl. So what’s the story here?”

“The manager took your comments about having too many IPAs on tap to heart. She wanted to stay with craft beers, but thought you guys deserved a lager.”

“Jack’s Abby? Is that a local brew?”

“Framingham, MA. Pretty small brewery, but they’re catching on down here.”

“Enough with the beer talk. Doesn’t anyone want to hear about my Thanksgiving disaster?”

“No…”

“Um, not really…”

“Seriously, if it put you in that bad a mood, it might be contagious. Drink your wine. Watch some football. Maybe UConn will win today.”

“Pffft, UConn. That sports program is going to Hell in a handbasket.”

“I told you, this isn’t college football country.”

“Then why should we watch?”

“Because there are some UConn fans in the bar, and you guys might win this one. I mean, you’re playing Tulane…”

“Said the guy whose precious Steelers took advantage of Andrew Luck’s concussion.”

“Whatever it takes. Besides, I’ve been in Pittsburgh when they beat Luck and company.”

“What about WVU, who are they playing on ‘Rivalry Weekend’ ?”

“Iowa State.”

“Oh, right, your brother’s alma mater. Do I remember correctly that you guys have some bet around that game?”

“Let’s just say, if WVU loses, I’ll be wearing red and yellow here next week.”

“Oh, those are awful colors. I hope I get to see that.”

“Thanks.”

“Is that game in Iowa or will Morgantown be enjoying the sweet smell of burning couches wafting in the night air?”

“Iowa. No couches will be harmed in the outcome of this game.”

“So, how come, on the day of the big game, you’re wearing a Pitt jersey?”

“Pitt plays first. They should be done whumping Syracuse before WVU-ISU kicks off.”

“And what? You’ll go home and change jerseys?”

“Probably.”

“A little superstitious?”

“It’s not superstition if it works.”

“Remember when WVU and Pitt both played UConn?”

“I do, hang on. Cheryl, this House Lager goes down pretty easy.”

“One more coming up. Does grumpy want more wine?”

“I do. And I want the Big East back.”

“Well, that ain’t gonna happen. The good teams escaped. UConn could always go back for basketball.”

“What about football? It’s a basketball-only conference.”

“So, it’s the only sport UConn is any good at. Well, that remains to be seen this year, but…”

“I seem to remember UConn beating your guys.”

“Yes, I was at the game where UConn beat Pitt in triple overtime, but those days are gone. In case you haven’t checked, Tulane is a 1-point favorite in your race from the bottom.”

“Losing to Tulane… That would be the perfect end to a rotten weekend for me.”

“Oh for the love. I thought maybe sports would take you mind off of this.”

“This? You don’t even know what ‘this’ is. Unless you asked when I wasn’t listening.”

“I haven’t asked, because I don’t care.”

“Some friend.”

“Here’s your wine, and your Jack’s Abby. If you boys are going to fight, keep it civil.”

“That’s what I tried to say on Thursday. Fat lot of good that did. You have no idea.”

“It was the election…right?”

“Yes.”

“Then I don’t want to hear about it.”

“It wasn’t only the election…”

“Let me guess, some of your guests wanted to go shopping at 3:00, 4:00, 5:00 and, or 6:00.”

“Yes, and some had to leave before desert so they could get up early for Friday shopping.”

“You should have given them a drumstick-to-go and your blessing. If people are thankful for the chance to fight for a cheap TV, who are we to complain?”

“What about you, what did you do?”

“We ate, we drank, we played Monopoly, we had pie and we watched the Steelers – perfect holiday.”

“Pumpkin pie?”

“And apple.”

“Whipped cream or ice cream?”

“Both.”

“That is perfect.”

Posted in Family, Friends, If having a beer | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 48 Comments