Thursday, June 30, 2011

Moving

When you live here in "la-la land" you think a lot about moving. Many locals do it every year and the rest of us all consider it on a regular basis. Every time we have trouble parking our car in August, or stand in line at the grocery store, or wish we could downsize but realize we can't because of the cost of real estate, the thought comes to mind "Maybe its time to move".

I think about it. I think about how much more we could get for our money in another place. I think about what life would be like here if none of my children were here. I think about the possibility of being some place where tourists don't flock in and take over, and where we could afford to actually take a vacation once in awhile.

I always finish those thoughts with the flip-side. I think about the community here that I love, the places I love to go, the people I love to be with and the beauty that surrounds me here. I think about my ancestors and the lives they lived here. I think about my memories and the history we've made. I think about all the trade-offs it would mean if we left and I know I can't do it. Some things just aren't worth money and this is one of them. Of course times change and I can never say "never". But for right now, I'm perfectly content to be here in East Hampton, sitting on a lot of equity I'll never use because I'd rather live in it than spend it elsewhere.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cool mornings

One of the things I love about the weather on the East End is the way the temperature cools down so nicely at night. Of course, there are those heat waves where we wake up to humidity and miserablly hot air, but for the most part we can depend on things cooling off overnight and giving us something great to wake up to.

As long as I get out of the house by 6:30am, I can take a nice walk ourside without melting. Sometimes when I get downstairs and open the windows I need to put a long-sleeved shirt on to keep from getting chilled. I read my morning paper and do my Facebook check in comfort, sitting in front of an open window, enjoying the peace of the early morning in East Hampton. It's quiet, it's cool, and I'm loving the summer.

I'm not a fan of heat and humidity. I like comfortable temperatures and I like to be able to breathe the air without feeling as though its as thick as pea soup. And until we get our next heat wave I'm enjoying another East End summer with cool mornings and comfortable nights. There's no place else I'd rather be.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Peace

Yesterday I talked about stress so today I need to counter that with something that makes up for all the stress in my life. Three of my grandchildren are staying with me for the month of July (along with their mother!) and last week we also had my son's fifteen-month-old granddaughter for some hours while her parents were working. Spending time with children is the perfect antidote for stress and I feel more peaceful and serene when I'm in their presence that at any other time.

One moment of great serenity came when I went upstairs to check on the baby after I'd put her up for a nap. I wanted to make sure she was sleeping and safe (I've always been a worrier and never "assumed" my children were sleeping when they were quiet!). I tip-toed into the room and peeked over the edge of the pack 'n play to see her sweet face which was the very picture of peace and contentment. I stood over her for a few minutes just soaking it in, this precious little gift of a life which is now part of mine. I felt blessed beyond belief that my family has grown so large and I am surrounded by all these wonderful children. And I knew that no amount of stress in the world could make me forget what's really important in life.

Stress is temporary but this kind of joy is forever.

Monday, June 27, 2011

S-T-R-E-S-S

Stress is a strange thing. It comes and it goes, it invigorates and it incapacitates, it motivates and it immobilizes. It can come in so many different forms and have so many different effects. Sometimes I love it and sometimes I hate it.

I'm one of those people who works well under certain stresses. I deal well with deadlines and schedules and I perform well when the rubber hits the road. But other things that bring stress completely throw me and I find myself overwhelmed with it all. Medical tests, family conflict, emotional distress, loss and grief - those are things that can deal me a serious blow. And they seem to always come together in bunches, causing physical symptoms as well as mental ones. I know about the effects of adrenaline and the "fight or flight" syndrome - I've experienced them firsthand!

I'm not sure why life brings us the challenges we find to be stressors. It's not easy, this life on earth, and there are times when I wish it could be simpler and kinder. But I also know that nothing in my life compares with the things others face so I really can't complain. Stress, as a matter of fact, is sometimes something of our own making and we have only ourselves to blame for it.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Front Porch

Last week I attended a shower for my new daughter-in-law that was given by one of the women at our church. She invited all the ladies of the church and many of them came. The hostess entertained the group on her beautiful porch, which was attached to a lovely early 20th century shingled home, very typical of East Hampton at the turn of the last century.

There were about thirty women in attendance, in ages ranging from the youngest (my granddaughter who's 15-months-old) to the oldest who were in their eighties, and everything in between. We had lemonade and chocolate covered local strawberries, chocolate cake and coffee, and we laughed a lot, and exclaimed over each gift as it was opened in turn. As I looked around at the scene I thought how this same thing has been repeated millions of times in the history of this community - women bonding over the wedding of one of their own, enjoying each other's company and supporting each other with their friendship and advice. And I wondered how many times this exact scenario might have been repeated on this very porch on similar summer nights. The fashions may have changed - and the gifts a bit different - but I could have been sitting in the very same spot with the very same people in the year 1920.

People are always complaining about how much East Hampton has changed and how its not the same friendly place it used to be. But sitting on that front porch drinking lemonade last week you sure could have fooled me.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fast forward

I'm already feeling as though this summer is flying by and I think someone may have pushed the "fast forward" button somewhere. It seems as though it was just Mother's Day and now suddenly school is over for the year and we're looking July square in the face. Where the heck did June go?

This is a particularly busy summer at my house and I'm juggling a good number of balls in the air right now so I shouldn't be surprised, but still - life is short and time goes so quickly anyway, I'm certainly not glad to see it moving at super speed. There are so many special moments you wish you could bottle - or at the very least slow down to savor for a bit longer. But the fact is nothing makes a difference and time will always be the enemy. Our days are numbered and we aren't privy to all that so we need to savor every one of them. I don't like any of my time to go too quickly and I wish I could take that "fast forward" button and find a way to disconnect it.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Canopies

Driving down Huntting Lane is such a pleasure now that the trees are full and lush. The rows of green on each side reach their long beautiful branches right across the road and form the most wonderful canopies of green, with dappled sun peeking through and flashing sparkles of light along the way. A drive down Huntting - or David's, or Fithian for that matter - is a step back in time with their lovely, mature landscaping and the wonderful and gracious old houses linng the way. I wish I could live on one of the lanes that spill onto Main Street. They're all spectacular.

I've seen photos of Main Street when the elms were so majestic and formed a similar arch across the larger expanse. This was before the hurricane of '38 took so many of them down. But it's been almost 80 years since then and the trees now are almost as big as they were back then, so we've nearly achieved the same look now. They keep saying we're in for a big storm one of these years and no doubt when that happens we'll have to start rebuilding the landscape again, but for now it's looking quite nice, thank you very much.

But Main cannot compete with Huntting. It has to be my favorite street in the whole village.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Summer

Now that we are officially in the summer season I'm happy to say the weather is cooperating. We've had some really nice weather and the grass is a beautiful green and the flowers are gorgeous. I had my first peonies this year - I planted six two years ago and one survived the deer. It gave me some beautiful blossoms a week ago. My hydrangeas are just beginning to pop and the various perennials are starting to liven things up. The rhododendrons are long gone now and irises have disappeared, but there is plenty to keep the landscapes beautiful/

My garden is finally coming into its own. The bushes have matured nicely, the pachysandra has spread enough to give me some nice ground cover, and the day lillies are beginning to grow again after the deer ate them down to the ground earlier. I think we'll need to do some pruning this fall because the lilac bushes are a bit tall now, but they provide a nice wall of green to keep us secluded from the road and traffic when we're enjoying our back deck.

Summer is a wonderful time and when its early in the season everything is a special pleasure. The family meals out on the deck, an ice cold drink from the cooler after some yard work, and the grandkids on the play set in the back yard - it's part and parcel of this time of the year and with the kind of weather we've been having its a joy. If the humidity stays low and the temperature moderate, this will be a great summer. Here's hoping!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Long Beach

Last week I had an appointment in Southampton at 4:00 in the afternoon...on Friday. Now anyone will tell you if you live out here you don't make any trips like that on a Friday afternoon in the summer. The traffic is going to be a nightmare. In both directions.

Actually I plan most my car trips around the traffic all year now days. I prefer not to head west between 2:00 and 5:00 in the afternoon and I try not to come east in the mornings in the summer. Being an ambulance driver I know the worst traffic times and I've learned to avoid them. But in this case it was unavoidable so I headed west about 3:00 knowing it would take me awhile to get where I was going. I didn't even bother to gauge the main roads, I simply turned my car north and went through Sag Harbor. Then, remembering there was some road construction on Scuttlehole, I headed over the bridge and navigated the roundabout, driving along Long Beach to go through Noyac. As I drove that long stretch of road following the sand, I marveled at what a pretty vista it was, water to the left (with houses dotting the far shore along the cove) and to the right, as far as I you can see. I decided then that Long Beach was one of my favorite spots on the East End and I really don't get to see it often enough.

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Sometimes its the quick little bursts of wonder that are the most profound. We tend to forget about the beauty around us when we see it too often - we become immuned to its wonder I suppose. But in the case of Long Beach it had been just long enough since I'd driven through that part of the world that I was once again taken by its charm.

The trip to Southampton was more pleasant on the longer route as I wove through Noyac and then North Sea. It took me a full 45 minutes to get into Southampton Village, but it was an enjoyable drive and I was glad I'd been forced to make it. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves how pretty the East End is - especially at this time of the year when its so crowded and busy. Who can blame the masses for wanting to enjoy it along with us? And after all, we do get to have it all to ourselves most of the time. Even on a busy Friday night I was able to say I was glad to have made the trip.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The '70s

Recently I've been very nostalgic for the '70s. Not the 60s, which were a crazy time in our history and full of angst for me since I will still in high school, but the 70s when I was out of high school and enjoying life on my own.

I loved the clothes of that era. I loved the peasant blouses and the bell bottoms. I loved the long, flowing dresses we called "grannies", which could be worn for fancy occasions or for walking on the beach. I also loved the long, gauzy cotton skirts which could also take us from day to evening and looked good on everyone. I liked the casual feel of the hippie era and the fact that we could pretty much wear what we wanted to and still fit in.

I also enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment that my generation gained as we watched the civil rights movement cause real changes, then gained the right to vote at the age of 18, were amazed to see women make strides in the fight for equality, and saw the end of the Viet Nam war. We were energized and empowered and it was a great feeling.

The '70s were also a wonderful time in my life - I was married in 1974 and had my first baby - with the new and cutting edge Lamaze method no less - in 1975. I felt like an earth-mother, using cloth diapers and making my own baby food. I felt in control of my life and my world. (Of course that was an illusion, I realize now, but it was a good feeling!)

So as I look though photos of myself and the people I knew back in the '70s I feel a sense of sadness that I'm no longer young and I no longer feel as though I have any control in my life. I actually prefer being older and wiser, but the glories of youth are not to be denied: love, enthusiasm, optimism and so many other things. It was magic time.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Hedges

As I've already mentioned in this space I have a love/hate relationship with hedges. I don't like the fact that so many people completely hedge themselves off from the world, making the community feel isolating and unfriendly. But I have hedges of my own which I like because they make a wonderful wall of green to sheild me from looking at the cars in my driveway. So while I don't like them in huge doses, they do serve a purpose which I appreciate - and I totally understand why people use them rather than putting up fences to give themselves some privacy.

Here's the problem with my hedges: they are getting too high. What I'm discovering is these things creep up on you, growing faster than we can keep up with them. My husband trims them a few times each summer, but they seem to be getting taller and taller, and therein lies the problem. At this point they need to have about a foot taken off the top to keep them at a proper height. Which means we need to hire someone to cut them. Otherwise before we know it we won't be able to do the maintenance ourselves because they'll be too high to reach. Also, this year there are dead areas in the hedges, as though winter-kill hit in spots, but they're not red-brown like you see with winter-kill, they're just empty spaces with no leaves - all brown sticks and twigs. I have no idea whether this is some sort of disease or perhaps just a result of the long cold winter, but they look a little sad.  And there's really no solution since we can't just cut out chunks of our hedge. Hopefully they'll eventually fill in.

Ah - the hedges. East Hampton is full of them and now I'm suffering with hedge issues too. How did we ever get here?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

More screens

I did what I said - I tried to find the inventor of window screens - to no avail. Apparently there was a company in Boston back in the 1800s that made metal sieves and one of the employees there, who never received proper credit, decided that the same material used for sieves could also be used to screen windows, keeping the insects off the food. And thus began the age of the window screen!

More importantly was the fact that because of this invention many diseases, specifically parasitic ones, were nearly eradicated by the 1950s when window and door screening had become the norm for houses across the United States. Amazing!

Going back further into history there were references to fine fabrics being used as bed drapings, or hangings, in the earlier times - but that was largely limited to royalty like Cleopatra. We still see such bug netting used in Africa and is especially good in areas where people sleep outside or in the most primitive conditions. For those of us with houses, window screens do the job nicely.

I love having the windows wide open and the breeze coming through so I'm glad I don't live in a house with central air - at least not one that was built as some are today where the windows are not easy to open and doors don't come with screens. There are some days when I'd love to have a/c for sure, but I also love those nice comfortable days when the windows let the world in and the screens keep the bugs out.

I'm sorry I can't give proper credit to that anonymous guy who worked in the sieve factory. He should have his name in the history books for a brilliant invention.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Screens

What a wonderful invention screens were! I don't know when they came into play in our history, but whomever it is that first came up with the notion was a real genius and should be recognized, just the way Edison is for the lightbulb.

We finally got all our screens up about a week ago. Some had to go to the hardware store for repairs, having developed some rather large holes somewhere along the way. I notice the little ones love to put their fingers in the tiny holes which serves to enlarge them nicely, but I'm not sure that's what happened - just a guess. In any case, we had to get them fixed or the summer would have been too buggy in the house. When I think of how they coped without screens at all I seriously wonder how people ever survived the summers. I realize that during the day they must have simply kept their windows open, allowing all manner of flies and other things to enter the house. But what did they do at night? Surely they couldn't risk letting raccoons and other large animals in so did they close everything up and melt all night long? I cannot even imagine it!

What I can imagine is the thrill that everyone must have felt when they installed their very first screens after living for years without them. It must have been just as exciting as watching your first TV or making a first phone call when those technologies were new, right? We are so immune to that kind of wonder in this day and age its hard for us to even imagine, but I remember the first time I saw a color television set - I think my mouth dropped open in shock. So I do know that feeling of awe at what is now available to us because of someone's brilliant idea.

Well, I'm grateful to whomever it was that invented the first screens. No doubt they had no idea they were coming up with something that would change the world! For the rest of eternity adults will be remembering the sound of the screen door slamming behind them on a summer day as they ran out of the house to play. And all of us can sleep in relative safely from the pesky flying things that inhabit the world in the hot months of the year. I'm going to go look it up right now and find out who it was. They deserve the credit and I'm going to give it to them!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Westhampton

I seriously think I could move to Westhampton Beach.

I am a native East Hamptoner whose roots go back many generations here and I love this place as much as anyone possibly could. But the traffic and the cost-of-living are so out of control lately that I admit to seriously thinking about life in a quieter place. A trip to Westhampton Beach this week makes me think it might be the best of both worlds: quieter than East Hampton yet so much the same in every other way. I was there on a Wednesday in June. In East Hampton the traffic on Main Street was horrid. In Westhampton Beach the street was nearly deserted. There was plenty of parking and many stores that I could actually afford to shop in. The wonderfully wide streets and sidewalks were clean and neat, with beautiful potted plants and hanging baskets everywhere. It's close enough to the ocean to smell it and we spent a couple hours just walking around, shopping, and enjoying a beautiful sunny day. We both remarked about how much it felt like East Hampton in the 1950s and 60s. It was peaceful and it was calm.

I'm quite sure the streets in Westhampton Beach are chaotic on weekends in June and probably most every day in July and August. But without Route 27 taking every  truck, bus, and car down the Main Street there, it's more like a summer oasis than a crazy resort where you take your life in your hand trying to cross from one side of it to another.

I never thought I would even consider moving away from East Hampton where my roots are so deep. But I think Westhampton is close enough that the roots almost reach that far so maybe I wouldn't feel as though I was completely displaced there...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Weeds

Along with the beautiful flowers and bushes in bloom here on the East End, the weeds are making a strong stand this year. It seems that as soon as I pull one, two replace it, and I can never get ahead of it. I can't stand to do any yard work in the heat of the day and it shames me to remember how my mother would spend hours and hours in her garden every year no matter what the weather. But I just don't love it the way she did - in fact I hate it. I love the flowers but I hate the weeding.

My goal since I started this garden years ago was to eventually have one that needed little work. An English garden, if you will, that's full of perennials and ground cover so I can wade in occasionally and take out the tall weeds that manage to gain a foothold. We bought as much pachysandra as we could afford a few years ago and spaced it out in the garden and this year its finally spread enough to really be making a difference. I think in two more seasons it will have done its job and the weeding will be minimal. But until then I need to be more vigilant. Because once it gets to a certain point I find it all overwhelming.

OK - enough talk now. I think I'd better get out there and get busy.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Teeth

After yesterday's blog I remembered another bug of mine: white teeth! Now I happen to love a good smile and beautiful teeth, but lately I've been noticing people, both on screen and in person, with teeth so white they look like plastic. When a smile flashes so brightly that I'm temporarily blinded, especially in someone who's over the age of fifty, I have to wonder what they are thinking.

I have no problem with tooth-whitening products and I think a nice crisp smile is a thing to admire. I'm a believer in hygiene and healthy mouths and I have no problem with people doing some work to make theirs whiter and brighter. But just like plastic surgery, some people become addicted to the whole thing and go totally overboard to the point they no longer look "normal".

I seem to think we've become a bit obsessed in our society with perfection - perfect faces, perfect smiles, and perfect bodies. At some point we'll all look alike and those wonderful little differences that give us our character will disappear. It reminds me of an episode of "The Twilight Zone" where a girl who'd just had plastic surgery and had the bandages taken off was horrified at what she saw because the surgery hadn't worked. She was a beautiful girl. But all the doctors and nurses around her were hideously ugly and she wanted to look like them.

It's a strange world out there. Rod Sterling would surely be amused.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Plastic surgery

Earlier this week I caught a television show during the day and the special guest was Barry Manilow. Now I've been a fan of his for many years, going back to when he was Bette Midler's arranger and pianist, so this is not me hating on Barry! But I have to say, the man looks bizarre. He's had so much plastic surgery on his face that he looks like a wax figure, with a tight face and lips drawn so tight he could barely talk right. He doesn't look like he did thirty years ago, he looks like something out of a horror movie, with the wrinkle-free face of a thirty-year-old but the crepe-like neck of a seventy-year-old. It's just weird.

This makes me wonder if there shouldn't be some sort of "board of review" for people seeking plastic surgery. So many of these famous people are surrounded by "yes men" that I'm not sure anyone ever really tells them the truth (i.e. Michael Jackson). Somebody needs to clue them in that they're going too far and will soon reach a point of no return. Barry joins a long line of famous folks who've already stepped over that line: Burt Reynolds, Suzanne Sommers, Joan Rivers.... It's a long list and getting longer all the time.

And on top of all that, what's so bad about looking your age? I mean, I color my hair, so I can't condemn anyone for wanting to look young, right? But at what point is it enough? For me, I think a little tweeking here and there is fine. But when we start looking otherworldly I say "enough"! Embrace your age folks and become the "elder statesmen" who show the way. Be the next generation of Frank Sinatras and Dina Shores who aged gracefully and let the rest of us know that it was OK.

Monday, June 13, 2011

An annoyance

I find that the little things which throw off my routine can sometimes be the most annoying. For instance, recently I've been having trouble with the site that I blog on. For some reason it's been sporadically not working properly, not allowing me access to make comments on other blogs for instance, or not letting me sign in at all.  I like to check blogs every morning and leave comments for my writing friends. Not being allowed to do so may seem like a silly thing to be annoyed at, but I am nonetheless. It's part of my routine and I like routine. It's like going for that same bowl of cereal you have every morning and discovering there isn't enough milk left in the container. It sort of throws you off a bit!

We're surely creatures of habit. We like things where we can find them, we want to know things are moving along the way we like them to, and we don't want to be thrown off by something out of the ordinary. All that said, I think change is good for us and we need to get outside of ourselves sometimes, but that's more along the lines of a vacation or change of paint color, not the little things in our every-day-lives that bring us comfort and calm in the midst of a crazy world.

Every day I go back into the web site to try again in the hope that things will be back the way they were before. Because I want my routine back. I'm feeling a bit disjointed...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Humidity

I hate humidity. There it is - I said it. I hate humidity and sometimes I think anyone who hates it as much as I do should not be living in the northeast at all.

This week we've had some high humidity and my energy level has been pretty low. I find its like slogging along in water when the air is heavy with moisture and I'm just like a slug trying to get any work done. I don't have central air and since I spend a good 80% of my time at the house its downright depressing sometimes. Fortunatly it doesn't get that bad real often, but this was early in the season for it and I usually count on June to be comfortably warm and dry. Sheesh!

So here's my dilemma: where in the world could I live where there would be no humidity at all. I don't want to live in the arctic (I like the temperature to be about 70 degrees) and I don't want to live in the tropics. So is there such a perfect place to live? I know Arizona doesn't get humidity much, but those temperatures over 100 degrees are more than I would bargain for. And it never gets too hot in Alaska but honestly, I can do without the winters.

I wish I had central air conditioning in my house so at least when the humidity climbs to an uncomfortable level I'd be able to escape. Earlier in the week it was perfect weather, with the temperature comfortable and the humidity low. But then the next few days not so much. I was ready to wilt. Of course yesterday was totally overcast and downright chilly- I had to go upstairs at one point and put on long sleeves because I was so cold! It's been a bit schizephenic here in the past 7 days!

I suppose there's no perfect place, which is why we humans are always looking for a Shangrila. I doubt one actually exists, but if it does please let me know! In the meantime I'm hoping for a drier July and August since we've already had our fill of air you can wring out to water the garden!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Family growth



One of the nicest things about having children grow up is that they bring new people into your family for you to love. Now that all four of my children are married, I am thrilled to have four daughters and four sons and I love them all. Each new member has brought wonderful gifts, delightful personalities, and a great deal of love with them and sometimes I feel as though my heart will burst with joy when they're all together. I totally understand my mother's feelings of contentment when she had her entire family for lunch every Sunday afternoon. You could see it on her face as she sat there surrounded by her children and grandchildren. And now I feel the same thing. It's a blessing not everyone has and I am incredibly grateful for it.

I also know with every blessing comes some risk. The more people we love, the more probability there is for hurt and pain. I remember well the survey that Ann Landers did years ago where she asked people whether, if could go back and do it all again, they would have children. An overwhelming percentage said no. They found that parenting was so painful and disappointing that they regretted ever having a family at all. I was shocked when I first saw that in the newspaper, but now I think I understand it a little better. I would never agree with those people and if I could go back and do things over again I would have every one of my children, no question. But I do know that the more love we let in to our hearts, the more pain can come in. With plenty comes loss. But to me there's no contest. I'll take whatever difficulties come with this big family of mine - I wouldn't trade the happiness for anything in the world.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Swans

The swans have returned to Town Pond with a nice little brood of cygnets and they're attracting lots of attention. People slow down when they drive by, families stop and feed them, and there is almost always someone taking a photo. They are adorable, the little fluffy gray ones, but the adults are a bit intimidating so I use caution when approaching. They've become a real fixture around the village in the past ten years or so.

Two years ago the nest was cleaned out of the pond in the fall and they haven't nested there since. I imagine they've built a new one in Hook Pond and they walk down the private road off James Lane every day for their public time. I suppose they like all the attention since they come every morning and go back every night to sleep in peace, away from the exhaust and noise of the busy road. But they come back to face their adoring public daily and probably enjoy the food brought to them.

My son says they're invasive species here and isn't keen on them. But they're so pretty gliding along the water with their brood following behind in a neat little line. Native or not, they've made a home here in East Hampton and, like so many of their human counterparts we've accepted them into the fold. After all, its a melting pot out here on the East End and we welcome all kinds to make it their home.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Strawberries

I so look forward to strawberry season every year. It's an inexact science so we never know exactly when the first ones will hit the farmstands, but by the second week in June they are always everywhere. It's one of the greatest sights I know, all those green containers piled high with bright red berries, and I love knowing they were picked fresh that morning. And the taste...well the taste is a little bit of heaven for sure.

When we were kids we used to go with my mother to pick them in the field. They were 25 cents if you picked your own and 35 cents if you bought a quart the farmer had picked. My mother thought the price difference was huge and she'd enlist the whole crew to help her out when it was time to make her famous strawberry jam. We would come home with lots of berries and she'd spend the next two days putting jam in mason jars to last us through the winter.

I haven't made jam in years and I'm feeling a little nostalgic for it right now. I'm thinking I may go shopping for some certo and mason jars this week and do a little work in my kitchen...for old times sake. Mom would be so glad.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Rt. 27

Recently I went to a friend's art exhibit at Dowling College, hitching a ride with some other friends for the trip. We took the normal route there, using MapQuest to give us the directions which went up Sunrise Highway to exit 48 and the went down to Rt 27 to the college. But on the way home we decided to take the long, scenic route and I was so glad. It was a treat!

We wound our way home along Rt. 27 all the way to Hampton Bays. We drove through the Moriches, Patchogue, Eastport, Quogue, enjoying the quaint Main Streets and cute shops along the way. We passed beautiful golf courses along the water, lovely old Victorian homes, wonderful historic churches, and many other things you won't see along the major highways. We even stopped at a bakery on Main Street in Westhampton Beach for a pastry and drink. The weather was picture-perfect and the company delightful and it all made for a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

I think I want to spend more time exploring the little towns around the East End, going into the shops and restaurants and playing tourist. I've lived here my entire life and I barely know some of the communities only an hour away. It's definitely time to change that.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bonac sunshine

Someone recently told me that the term "Bonac sunshine" was used by the old timers to describe warm, foggy days. I've asked around and have yet to find anyone else who knows that term so I suspect it was one his own family used (you know how we all have some "family language" that's ours alone) but I find the term interesting nonetheless.

Our lawns and gardens are flourishing these days thanks to an over abundance of Bonac sunshine here in the past month. Many mornings driving west I passed through thick fog, especially where the farm fields still line the road in Sagaponac and Wainscott. One week was warm and pleasant, but the fog held the really high heat, which the rest of the northeast was experiencing at the time, way down.

It's been over a week now since fog has crept along the field across from my house and the sun has been out most all of the time. All that moisture the fog brought has dissipated and now we need to keep watering those plants or the gardens will flounder. I'm hoping for a little more Bonac sunshine soon...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Flower pots

Saturday I went to the nursery to get plants for my outdoor flower pots. I consider these big outdoor pots to be a real luxury because its not cheap to get enough pants to fill them. We bought them at a yard sale a few years ago and they're beautiful terra cotta clay pots that have an imprinted design almost like hieroglyphics. I would imagine they cost over $200 new but at the yard sale, which was at a large estate, they were $40 each. I grabbed them because they were so unique and pretty. But now the challenge is to fill them every year. I have another large green glazed pot which I bought at another yard sale and that one is another challenge. They take a lot of dirt and many plants to make them look sufficiently lush. Twenty years ago I never could have done them but now I take a deep breath and go to the nursery to shop, trying not to think about how much money I'm spending.

So we headed to Buckley's and grabbed a wheel barrow and went into the greenhouse. First I grabbed a couple nice big pink geraniums. They'd be the base for the arrangement. Then back outside to peruse the smaller plants, picking up some ivy for draping and then grabbing various other things, looking for both color and height to try to make the whole thing work together. Then we headed home.

We had three large bags of potting soil and a smaller one which someone had given me. The pots swallowed all that dirt up and I needed more. I packed the plants into the pots, trying to arrange them in a pleasing manner, and then my husband went to the back of the yard to get some of our own dirt to fill in the holes around the little plants. By the time we were done they looked quite nice, freshly watered and (hopefully) ready to flourish.

I know when the bill comes I'll gasp. And yet I also know that these beautiful big pots of plants will make me smile everytime I drive into my driveway and walk onto my deck to the back door. There are some things that are just priceless in terms of their emotional value. It's nearly summer and it looks like it now.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Scale

I am battling to save the lives of my beloved orchids - they have developed scale. In the past when these pests showed up on my houseplants I would just throw them away. But in this case, with expensive plants which I have lovingly kept alive and find so much pride in, I am going to war. I scrape the tiny things off the blossoms and leaves, wash them down the sink, and re-check them every few days. It seems to be a losing battle as they continue to show up and I continue to scape them off, wondering if it's an effort in futility. I'm not sure.

Why is it that when we win one battle (keeping these plants alive has been a huge one!) we face another? It's almost like a life-lesson. While some doors open for us, others slam shut. When we begin to feel optimistic about the way things are going, something happens to slap us down and discourage us. It's almost as though the fates sit back and say "Look at that - she finally figured out how to keep those plants alive - let's throw her a curve ball now!" Does anyone else ever feel that way? You get a great job/you get fired from a great job. One child gets on the honor roll/one child gets detention. It's like things can never go too smoothly because we shouldn't get complacent!

Of course my orchids are only a small part of my daily life and I realize there are no great conspiracies aimed in my direction., But honestly, I am determined to win this one and my orchids will survive! Because in life we need a little victory now and again...

Saturday, June 4, 2011

State fairs

I love old movies. So much so that I'd much prefer to watch a Doris Day/Rock Hudson comedy from the 1950s to anything made in the last ten years at least. I like the fact that they hearken back to a simpler time in our country's history. I enjoy the moral standards and the fact that I don't have to wince every few minutes because of language, sexual content, or gross factor.

I especially love musicals and last week I watched one of my favorites: State Fair. This movie was filmed back in the 1940s and its a little time capsule that is a delight to sit through. The clothes remind me of the things my grandmother wore, and photos of my parents when they were young. The two young people in the depicted family were probably late teens or early twenties so their mother must have been in her forties. She had gray hair and looked about 60. What a difference hair color makes! Gray hair is so rare now in anyone younger than 70 that it looked as though she was their grandmother, not their mother.But the post-war optimism and joy was evident throughout the movie and that was fun to see.

The premise is the adventures of a family that drives to the Iowa State Fair to enter livestock and kitchen creations with the hope of winning blue ribbons. In the week the family was camping at the fair grounds, both the older ones won their blue ribbons and the younger ones fell in love. The whole thing wrapped up nicely in the end and everyone was happy, naturally. A total slice of the American dream and a fantasy come true.

I've only attended state fairs twice, first in Syracuse NY when I was about eleven-years-old. It was very much like the one in the movie, with a lively midway full of rides and games and lots of contests like oxen pulls and pickle making. (It also had a freak show, which I was not allowed to enter.) The second was as an adult when we were visiting friends in New Hampshire and we drove over to the fair in Maine. It wasn't much different from the earlier one, very heavy on the rural lifestyle. Perhaps its the memories of that fair when I was young that makes watching the movie so much fun. But seeing the old wooden roller coaster, and watching the characters get so much enjoyment out of eating candied apples and sleeping in a small trailer for a week just made me feel nostalgic for a time when life - and our pleasures - were so simple.

I have no idea what most state fairs are like today but I think its safe to say they aren't as quaint as they were in the movie. Too bad. It looked like so much fun!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Bunions

My mother had major foot problems. Because of that I've always tried to take good care of my feet, not wearing high heels or forcing them into pointy toes or shoes that are too narrow. I guess my efforts were in vain though because I've developed bunions anyway.

So far, I'm not needing surgery but I know its just a matter of time. I'm not complaining because there's nothing life-threatening about it - its more of an inconvenience than anything else - but it is making me feel old. Because I always thought bunion surgery was for old people.Which, I guess it is. But I haven't yet accepted my age. My other foot problems are more troublesome because they cause constant pain. I've learned to live with the pain and deal with it more in increments, as in one day being not too bad and another being horrible. It's chronic and I doubt I'll ever be free of it so I cope with it. Other people have worse things to deal with.

I'm learning the truth of one of my father's favorite sayings about old age: "It's better than the alternative!" But I admit to some distress over the many maladies that come with age and hope mine will not be as bad as others'. But the problems I'm having with my feet, bunions of which are only a small portion, are making me envision an old lady having trouble walking from one place to another, not the lively, spry person I always expected to become. Well, should I be lucky enough to live to be old I guess I'll take what I get!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Spirea

My large white spirea is in bloom this week and I always love to see it because its one of the oldest bits of landscaping in our yard.

We actually have three newer spirea but they are the "lime mound" variety, which have bright yellow-green foliage and line our walkway. But this one is the species commonly known as "bridal wreath" because of its long, draping boughs lined with tiny white blossoms, looking very much like something you still might see at a wedding. It grows well here and there are many around town, but its not as much in "vogue" as it used to be. (I always find it amusing that landscaping can be "in" or "out" but truth is you can almost date a house by the species planted around it, especially here in East Hampton.If there is a large weeping willow, for instance, you know it was planted in the 1920s because they were very "in" then, but later fell out of favor.)

This bush was already fairly large when we moved into our house, which was built about 1924. We had it moved when we put an addition on because I can't bear to see trees and bushes destroyed and felt it worth the cost. It has never been my favorite thing because the blossoms have such a short life, but now I do love it, mostly because its huge - about 12 ft across - and it reminds me of the history of this house and this area of the village where my ancestors lived. I'm reminded of the care and pride they took in their homes and of the years I grew up here seeing that very bush in a smaller form.

This is one of the many things we've moved around the yard. The irises have been moved three times and the red maple once. Recently we moved a birch tree that wasn't doing well since the things around it had grown so much. But this bush is the one I seriously questioned at the time because it wasn't all that fond of it. Once the brief flowers are gone its just a big green monster. But I don't regret it now. It makes a statement and I like that.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June

There've been so many poems, songs and books written about the month of June that there's not much else anyone can say about it except that every year it"s a new adventure. Last year we had a wet, wet spring and June was a mess at our house. We had water in our basement and struggled to keep the hot water heater lit so we could get warm water for baths and showers. It was the beginning of a long summer struggling with the mess. This year seems to be more promising as most of the rain has passed to the west of us and we're dry and happy. The weather was overcast in May so June should be brighter and warmer.

I think June is a favorite among artists of all kinds because its full of future promise. Besides being the beginning of summer, its a popular month for weddings, graduations, and vacations so there always seems to be something to look forward to. This year I'm awaiting the arrival of my granddaughter from PA who'll be here with us for a week before the rest of her family arrives for their annual summer visit. This is always the highlight of my season so I'm counting down the days now. I'm already planning things we can do together, just the two of us, to make the week extra fun.

Two years ago in June I'd lost all my hair and was suffering the other effects of chemotherapy. Simply feeling good and being able to do normal things is a blessing beyond anything else. I'm going to savor every moment of this wonderful month of June. June is a wonderful month in East Hampton!