Monday, August 29, 2011

The Aftermath

Thank you for your comments and concern.  Thankfully Irene blew through here without causing too much havoc and headed for parts unknown, never to return.  There seemed to be a lot more hype about this storm than was necessary but I guess after Hurricane Katrina, no state government wants to come under fire again for its lack of preparation or response.

The lights flickering on and off lasted most of yesterday, then about 3 o’clock they did their final “flickering” and stayed out for good.  I wasn’t really concerned because  I had done such a good job of preparing.  I had candles, food, water, flashlights, cell phone, reading material, hand sewing projects and even a radio.

The only thing that I didn’t prepare for was being able to cook---I forgot to cover the gas grill and it got so wet from the torrential downpours that I couldn’t light it. :(

The power did come back on about 3:00 am this morning but so did everything else that had been left on, LOL.  It took me a good half hour to run around and shut off the lights and appliances and reset clocks on all of the appliances! 

I am grateful to have power again so quickly.  I know there are still many that don’t.  My sister is one of them. 

This morning I was expecting a lot of trees down on the way to work but there wasn’t any damage to see.  I have a feeling that all the bad storms and power outages we’ve had in the last couple of years since the ice storm of 2008 have thinned out the weak and sick trees. They’re usually the ones that topple first.  This is the worst destruction that I came across on my commute, and it’s my road.




Sunday, August 28, 2011

Goodnight Irene

Irene has been downgraded to a tropical storm but she’s still packing a punch and giving us a good whipping, even here 40 miles from the NH coast.  

My lights have flickered on and off twice and I’ve decided to turn off my sewing machine after a morning of playing around with some new designs.  It’s a good idea to always have your machine hooked up to a surge suppressor, especially if it’s a computerized model.  You should also read the warranty that came with your machine.  You’ll find that most of the warranties only cover  the electronics for five years!  I don’t think that’s a very long time when I’ve had my Viking 6570 for over 30 years.  It’s probably the most expensive item to repair also.

Not sure how much longer I’ll have power because in the last half hour, we’ve had some pretty big gusts and it’s the noise that was the scariest part—sounds like a locomotive roaring by. 

So I’ll say “Goodnight and good riddance” to Irene now, in case I’m offline for the next couple of days!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hoping for the best

So many people in the path of Irene.  Most of my family lives in that path on the South Shore of Boston, Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard but they’re safe, thankfully. Those that live in coastal areas have evacuated to higher, safer ground.  They’ve done what’s needed, they’re prepared and now it’s just the wait.

But how do you evacuate a beloved beach house?  The beach house of my friend Sandy is in a very vulnerable area prone to flooding and has endured many hurricaines and major storms in it’s 125 years— Hurricane Carol in ‘54, the blizzard of ‘78, Gloria in ‘85, and Bob in ‘91.

It’s a beach house that has seen several generations of children grow up in this family.  Cousins and grandchildren come each summer weekend with their parents to spend a day at the beach with their aunts, uncles and friends—boogey boarding in the waves, building sand castles and finding shells and seagull feathers  to show the adults, later standing excitedly in line for snow cones.  Their pictures adorn the walls of the beach house and tell the story of it’s history and theirs.

 summer pictures July 2011 033

Each of the bedrooms has a name:  The Blue Room, Gert’s Room, The Fisherman’s Room, The Chimney room and Edie’s Room.  Named for what the room is or who’s room it once was.   Sandy's Room

It’s not a fancy beach house, the walls are not insulated and there’s no central heat. There’s also no insuance.  It’s just too cost prohibitive to insure an 1885 building  that’s only used for 3 months in summer and  located in a flood zone but like a cat, the beach house seems to have nine lives and survives.  Even an anonymous arson attempt that destroyed the building next door and sent burning sparks onto it’s roof failed to destroy it.

I’m just praying it’s still got a few more of those lives left.

Letting go and moving on to grilled pizza!

Since I went back to work in April I’ve been struggling to keep up. Maybe some of you know where I’m coming from and can relate--the house, yard work, garden, bill paying, paperwork, errands, family, friends, community and commitments, it’s left little time for anything else.

I didn’t plan on this job turning permanent or being so all consuming—but those are good things, right?  With the economy in shambles and so many still unemployed, it would be selfish of me not to be grateful for the good fortune of finding a job with such potential for growth.

I hate disappointing anyone and “No” has never been a word I’ve been comfortable using when I’ve been asked to help out (a psychologist would probably have a lot to say about that).  I’m also a “recovering” procrastinator which means I’ve sometimes had to stay up till 3:00 AM to finish projects that had deadlines.  That was “OK”  while I was unemployed because I could steal a cat nap during the day, but I doubt I’d be able to come up with  a plausible explanation to my boss, if I did that at work. 

What’s really painful for me, is admitting that I can’t finish something that I started and having to give it back unfinished or pass it along to someone else partially complete. I feel a bit like a failure or a fraud.

So this past month, I’ve been having some serious conversations with “SELF” about what I can reasonably achieve in the limited time I have available outside of work and still feed myself and wear clean clothes.  The net result of these “heart to hearts”is that some of my leisure time activities have to be shelved and put on the back burner, at least for the present—maybe indefinitely. 

In order to do this, I had to make a list of the things that I’m unwilling to give up  with a scale of 1 to 10 based on their value and importance to the quality of my life,   Don’t worry---blogging made one of the top spots on the list!  So did sewing/quilting and gardening though I’m going to scale back a bit on gardening.

Some of the things that I’m shelving, I will miss but in the long view  they are not adding enough enjoyment for the amount of time that I allot to them and are cluttering up my life and my space and possibly holding me back from achieving more in my other areas of interest.

I feel good about the decisions I’ve made because I know I’ll now have more time to devote to the pursuits I really care about and I’ll be able to share more with all of you too!

So now on to grilled pizza!

blog pictures 82611 036

I started making grilled pizza a couple of years ago.   I can remember why too—I’d picked up some pizza dough at the supermarket on a humid Friday night on the way home from work because my daughter and a friend were here for the weekend. After being closed up all day the house was just too hot and humid to turn on the oven.  

This pizza comes out delicious.  If you like thin crust pizza, flatbread pizza or anything other than deep dish you will LOVE, LOVE this pizza.

I should first tell you that I  use my gas grill just about everyday during the summer and fall and even in winter.  Heck the only time I haven’t used my grill is during a nor’easter! 

So here’s how to make grilled pizza.  Once you make this, you’ll never settle for any other kind.  It’s FAST too.

Grilled Pizza Ingredients: 

  • Gas grill
  • Pizza dough, either homemade or store bought.  (I buy a brand called “Portsmouth Pie Company” at my supermarket).  My favorite is whole wheat.  It should be room temperature for best results
  • Olive oil for brushing or make ahead garlic oil (see recipe that follows)
  • Pizza Sauce – any kind, jarred is fine, you can use left over spaghetti sauce.   I’ve also used Alfredo sauce for white pizza and mixed BBQ sauce with tomato sauce for BBQ chicken pizza.
  • Any toppings you like—Fresh tomatoes from the garden, leftover veggies, spinach, broccoli, mushrooms, onions, grilled eggplant, turkey pepperoni, leftover sausage meat, shredded cheese, leftover chicken, fresh mozzarella, goat cheese,
1) Preheat your  grill, if you have a top shelf, heat it to medium high, if you don’t have an upper shelf on your grill, light only one side or burner.  Spray the grill with PAM or brush with olive oil.    Close the cover of the grill and let it get hot.   One note here—make sure your grill racks are clean or whatever is stuck to them will be on the pizza, hopefully it will taste good.
2) Divide the ball of dough into four parts.  This will make four good sized individual pizzas.  You can refrigerate any dough that you don’t want to use up to 3 or 4 days (I wouldn’t go longer than that before using it up).
3) Shape the four pieces of dough into a ball and brush very lightly with olive oil and let them sit for about five to ten minutes to rest.  After that roll the dough out onto a plastic cutting board (mine is about 10” x 13”) so you can pick it up and put it on the grill.  Shape it into a rectangle as best you can with a rolling pin or your hands.   If it “fights” you, give it a short rest and repeat shaping till you have a pretty even thickness.  Brush it lightly with olive oil and let it rest another five minutes.
4) Now carry the cutting board to the grill and carefully peel the dough off the board and place it onto the top grill rack with the oil side down.  You still have a few seconds to pull/ push reshape it if it didn’t come off the board perfectly—this is a rustic pizza anyway so don’t OCD about the shape. 
5) If you don’t have an upper rack in your grill, do the same procedure but put the dough opposite the burner that’s lit (indirect grilling). 
6) Close the grill cover and wait 5 to 10 minutes, then using kitchen tongs—check the dough.  You’re only cooking one side at this point—the bottom, so carefully lift to check for grill marks and that the dough can be lifted easily off the grill.  The top should be under done but not doughy. 
7) When the bottom’s done, lift it onto the cutting board and brush the top lightly with oil, then flip it so the grill marks are on top and spread your sauce, seasonings, toppings and cheese onto the pizza crust.   Return it to the bottom grill rack.  Reduce the heat or turn off the opposite burner and close the grill.  Check every five minutes.   My grill takes about 15 to 20 minutes to cook the pizza using only one burner and indirect heat. 

Garlic Oil

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 head of garlic, cloves, separated, peeled and smashed.

Place garlic in a sauce pan with EVOO and heat on medium till tiny bubbles form around the pieces of garlic.  Watch carefully if garlic starts to brown, reduce heat,  garlic should just simmer for seven to ten minutes.  Remove from heat and cool.  Pour into an air-tight jar and store in the fridge for up to a week.  Yum, yum—use in salads, brush on veggies before grilling, use for garlic toast.  It’s wonderful.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Indian PIpes!

Just thought I’d share some pictures of Indian Pipes (Monotropa uniflora). I found blooming in the woods the other day.  Have you ever seen this unusual flower?  Believe it or not, it’s related to blueberries! 

It’s translucent white sometimes tinged pink and often has black spots. The reason for the lack of color is because it doesn’t have chlorophyll (non-photosynthetic). It grows in rich dense woods where little light hits the forest floor.  Even though it’s bizarre looking, It’s a true flower with leaves, sepals and petals but it’s also a parasite feeding off of beneficial micorrhyzal fungi that grow in the soil.

It’s common name refers to it’s resemblance to the clay pipes used by early Native Americans.  It’s beautiful and ethereal and looks as if it’s made out of glass. 

This is why I love walking in the woods —you just never know what magic you’ll find.

Butterflies 2011 004Butterflies 2011 003

Saturday, August 6, 2011


I like August even better than June or July.  I know some people sadly see it as the last month of summer but to me it’s a quiet month.  A month for sitting under a tree and reading a new book, and later sitting outside on my deck to watch the stars come out just because the night sky is beautiful this month. 

All but the very latest perennials and annuals have come into bloom, most are past peak and have stopped making new growth.  We gardeners almost have the month off.   With the exception of watering and deadheading, there’s little to do now but harvest veggies and listen to the crickets and tree frogs--even the lawn has slowed down its growth and needs less cutting.

The coneflowers, liatris and cleomes are the stars of my garden this week along with rudbeckia and Russian sage.  The Autumn Joy sedum is all budded up and those pansies I told you about that have been on vacation are eager for me to let them start blooming but I’ve been pinching them back.

Wild flowers are adorning the roadsides, empty lots and fields.  Queen Anne’s lace is a favorite of mine.   This is also a good time to hunt for Monarch butterflies—look for milk weed plants—that weed that everyone seems to hate but butterflies love.  When you find a plant, check for caterpillars and adults laying eggs.

I fertilized my roses last weekend and I’m hoping for maybe one or two more flushes of blooms before the end of September.  Roses love water—not wet feet—just lots of water, so make sure your roses get a good soaking at least once a week, twice when the weather is really dry.  Keep water off the leaves.  I water mine in a big circle around them to avoid black spot and mildew.

Newly planted (this year or late last fall) shrubs and trees need to be watered well once a week.  Depending on the size of the shrub or tree that’s 2 to 5 gallons of water a week.

Now’s the time to wash out a couple of peanut butter jars, fill them with soapy water and give them to your kids  with a popsicle stick.  Tell them you’ll give them a penny for every Japanese beetle that they pick or scrape  off your plants and drown in the jar.  This is so much better than using a chemical spray or a pheromone trap.   In fact, the best thing you can do with those expensive traps that attract the beetles is to give them to your neighbor.

I can tell you firsthand that several years of drowning Japanese beetles has drastically reduced the number of grubs in my lawn and beetles on my rose bushes and shrubs without the use of pesticides!