sometimes it’s beautiful

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(photos by Banjo Man)

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good ice, bad ice

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This is not good ice.

My father spent his winters looking for “good ice”.  He loved to play hockey, loved to be on ice skates, and enjoyed hauling us from pond to pond in his quest for “good ice”.  He would come home from work and announce that he’d driven by such-and-such pond and he’d seen people skating on it and…off we’d go.  Nothing would make my father stop a car faster than seeing people ice skating.

I still look for good ice, out of habit, gawking out the car window to see if various local ponds have frozen over.  Good ice is a pond that has frozen like glass, does not have frozen ripples from the wind or snow melted into it destroying the surface, and is not covered with a ton of snow.  Though some snow is not an issue, if it is covering good ice.  A couple of snow shovels and some boys who want to play hockey can clean off a large section of ice in no time.

Sometimes my father would try out a local outdoor rink, but those places were usually too crowded.  He preferred the local ponds or the rivers surrounded by woods and out of the wind.  While he and my brother and the neighborhood kids played hockey, I practiced my Peggy Fleming moves and attempted to dance to the music in my head.  I was skinny and quiet and I loved to skate.  He would always skate with me, too.  Arm and arm we’d go for a dance around the pond, with him singing happily to give us a beat to follow.  There might be a fire and the roasting of hot dogs, too, if it was a weekend day and the ice was so good that no one wanted to go home until dark.

When I was in high school, the popular boys would call our house on Sunday morning and ask to speak to my father.  They knew who to call when they found “good ice” somewhere and wanted a pick up hockey game.

But there is good ice and bad ice and as you see from the photo, nothing is going to skate on here except our car and the UPS truck.

And no one is dancing to the music.

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Posted in family, rhode island | 4 Comments

survival of the fattest

General Tso's Chicken and fried pork dumplings from Golden Chopstix.

General Tso’s Chicken and fried pork dumplings from Golden Chopstix.

This morning I am counting the hours until I can eat Chinese leftovers for lunch.  I was up at 4:30 AM, staring into the refrigerator and wondering if I could last for 7 hours.

I can.  I will.  I am strong.

Sort of.

Yesterday we drove twenty minutes south to the new Michael’s, because I had a double coupon for framing.  Banjo Man and I went through our piles of photographs and art and posters and memorabilia and picked out four things to have framed.

Two were gifts of poems by Idaho poet Paul Croy.

Paul Croy

Illustration by David Kendall.

He was a dear, sweet man who was loved and respected by everyone who knew him.  We bought a wood cook stove from him in the 1970’s and he made us huckleberry pancakes.

That wood cook stove was stolen from our cabin and I am still beyond angry over that.

So we were very particular as to how we wanted these framed.   I think they’ll be beautiful.  I’m excited.

To read one of his books of poetry, Old Blazes, click HERE.

Then Banjo Man wanted to go out for Chinese and I wanted to order take-out and go home to the cozy living room and the Big Couch.  I won.  But my phone battery was dead.  Banjo Man had a little bit of life in his, so we managed to order our food after 6 aborted dialing attempts.

We are not good with cell phones.

I don’t think we’re going to get any better, either.  Banjo Man explained how he’d read an article about Apple Pay and that it was going to be “the future” of commerce, due mostly to the fact that it couldn’t be hacked.

I asked him if he thought we would ever be able to use an I-phone, never mind how to pay for groceries and Chinese take-out with it.

He had no answer.

This morning it was below zero again.  We don’t care any more.

Posted in books & music, food, lake, rhode island | 1 Comment



My critique:



To be fair, some of the lines were funny.  If you were an actor or in show business in any way, you would think those lines were fall-off-the-couch hilarious.

I tried, I really tried, to keep an open mind and not say anything critical about the strange jazz drumming soundtrack or the Flying Mental Illness Bird.

So I kept silent, made jigsaw puzzles on the Kindle and looked at my watch a lot.

I kept Banjo Man company on the Big Couch, and that was my good deed for Saturday.  After all, sometimes he watches “Buying Alaska” and “Fixer Upper” with me.

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minus ten

Minus ten.


Ten below.

That was what we woke up to Saturday morning.  Banjo Man stared at the outdoor thermometer for long moments and then as we huddled by the gas stove we had it confirmed by a stunned weatherman on tv.

I think we’re starting to get used to it.

Here are some of our rules for surviving this awful February:

1.  Do not go anywhere.

2.  Eat a lot of bean soups.

3.  Don’t bother wearing anything but old black leggings (me), flannel lined khakis (Banjo Man) and old wool sweaters (both of us).  No one is coming over and no one is going to see you.

4.  Save money on shampoo.  (See #1 and #3)  You can use the extra bucks for the propane bill.

5.  Watch a lot of television.  Mini-series are great because that gives you something to look forward to all day as  you huddle in your igloo office working.  There were 22 episodes in Season One of BlackList, thank God.  And that was only the beginning.

I think Banjo Man has a hat just like that.

I think Banjo Man has a hat just like that.

6.  Order the new season of Game of Thrones.  Limit yourself to one episode a night.  Try to get your neighbor on the couch to call you “Khaleesi”.  Pretend you look like this:

game-of-thrones_season_4But you really look like this:


7.  Tell each other every night how glad you are to have the Giant Couch and the Giant television.

Finding this in the store was one of the best days ever!!!!

Finding this in the store was one of the best days ever!!!!

8.  Order a new cd every day from Amazon.  Downloading MP3 albums doesn’t count because the resulting computer glitches cause stress, while opening the daily box from Amazon is an *event*.


I love these smiley boxes.

9.  Learn new songs.

10.  Blog more.

11.  Download guitar lessons from Troy.  He is my best friend (See #1 and #3) and is very patient when I rewind his instructions over and over again.

12.  Plan the summer road trip.  Google prehistoric Indian mounds, “the best antique malls in Ohio” and the  West Virginia Country Music Hall of Fame.

Serpentine Mound

Serpentine Mound

13.  Pretend you are somewhere else.  We like to pretend we are in Austin.  Banjo Man isn’t very good at this, but if I make a margarita in a beer mug I can pretty much picture myself at the Saxon Pub on a Wednesday night watching Cindy Cashdollar set up her six lap steel guitars.  Especially if I close my eyes and chug.

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Cindy Cashdollar tuning up for Johnny Nicholas and Hellbent at the Saxon Pub.

Cindy Cashdollar tuning up for Johnny Nicholas and Hellbent at the Saxon Pub.

14.  Look at pictures of the lake.

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15.  Work, work, work.

16.  Plan my retirement party.


Yes, there is tequila in there.

17.  Do jigsaw puzzles on my Kindle.  Kristanix is by far the best app!


18.  Reorganize recipes in binders while watching television. (See #5)

19.  Reorganize music into five different binders while watching television.  Alphabetize by song titles. (See #5)

20.  Be creative with how to get exercise with the Stamina Elliptical Machine.  I have mine under the desk and I peddle as I write.  Like right now.  The price keeps going up (mine was a lot less expensive) so maybe everyone in New England is ordering them?  My butt is going to be as hard as a rock by July.

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21.  Take pictures of the animals that are not likely to make it through the winter.

A deer with strong survival skills.

A deer with strong survival skills.

22.  Resolve to make it through the winter.

Posted in personal female whining, rhode island | 2 Comments

in honor of winter…

…I bring you Banjo Man’s Balls.2015-02-15 011Make all the jokes you want.  This is gourmet stuff, folks.

They work.

Do you know what they are, without Googling it????

Want to guess?

Want to brighten up my dreary winter and leave a comment?

There may be a prize.

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Posted in rhode island, shopping | 10 Comments

slow cooker chicken chili

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Here’s another one of Banjo Man’s favorites this winter.  I adapted three different recipes I found online and came up with this version:


Put these into crock pot:  1 package of chicken tenders, cut into chunks
1 TBS cumin seeds
enough water to cover the chicken, plus an inch
Cover and cook on high until chicken is cooked and tender.


1 TBS “Better Than Boullion” chicken boullion
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped pepper (I used a frozen mix of red, yellow and green peppers)
1 TBS minced garlic
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 chopped jalapeno (I buy this by the jar)
3 cans white beans, drained and rinsed

Into blender:

1 can drained white beans
1 cup chicken stock

Add to crock pot.

Add chicken broth/stock to adjust the liquid to cover the beans, etc. but not be too watery.

Cook as long as you want.

Thirty minutes before serving add:

3/4 cup milk mixed with 2 TBS masa (corn flour) or corn meal
1 lb. grated Monterey Jack cheese (optional)

(It should be creamy but not as thick as a chowder.)


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the answer to the worst winter weather ever


ice clamps

Stabilicers Lite Duty Serious Traction Cleats


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carbs and cabin fever


Let’s talk about cabin fever.  The definition?  From Webster’s:  “a condition of increased anxiety, tension, boredom, etc. caused by living for some time in a confined space or an isolated area, esp. in winter.”

New England is experiencing one of its worst winters in recorded history.  No lie.  Even Sarge compared it to Alaska, his last duty station.

I think we’re experiencing some cabin fever weirdness.  Here’s why:

Banjo Man and I rarely buy cereal.  It’s not something we eat for breakfast, so we only toss boxes of cereal into the shopping cart when the kids are coming to visit.

Last week–before we knew the extent of the upcoming snowstorm–we bought a box of generic Oat Chex because Sarge was due in for the weekend.

Later that afternoon, as we were unpacking the groceries, Banjo Man said, “I think I’d like a little of that cereal.  You know, as a snack, because we’re not heating up the bean soup for another couple of hours, are we?”

He poured the chex into a little bowl and then offered to pour one for me.  We wolfed down 1/4 cup each, agreeing it was the best thing we’d tasted in months, before putting the box on the shelf for Sarge.

And that night, while watching American Idol, Banjo Man said, “I think I’d like a little of that cereal.  You know, as a snack.”

He poured equal amounts of chex into soup bowls and we guiltily chomped down more of Sarge’s cereal.

“That’s it,” I said.  “The rest is for Sarge.”

Banjo Man agreed.  J-Lo looked beautiful, Harry Connick Jr was so smart and Keith Urban was just so darn adorable.  We made our bowls of cereal last for long, long minutes.

The next day I went downstairs to Banjo Man’s office to ask him something and I saw the box of Oat Chex.  Banjo Man had eaten the rest of the cereal.  He’d sneaked the box downstairs and finished it off while I wasn’t looking.

“You have got to be kidding,” I yelped.  “You sneaked and you didn’t share!  What about Sarge????!!!!”

“I’ll buy more,” he promised, looking at his watch.  “I’ll go to town in an hour.”

He came home with four boxes.  Sarge couldn’t get home for the weekend, so Banjo Man has two boxes and I have two boxes.  We wrote our names on them, so now when we watch television we each have our own box.

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We are actually hiding our boxes from each other.

I think we need to get out of the house.  I think we need a vacation in a warm place.

I think we both need to be on diets.


Posted in food, rhode island | 2 Comments

the easiest white bean soup in the snowy, windy universe

2015-02-14 003I’ve been making this a lot lately, mostly because I can’t think of anything interesting to cook this winter.

And also because it’s easy.  And because it makes Banjo Man happy, especially if he has a loaf of special bread with which to enjoy it.

He especially likes it after doing this:

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1 bag of frozen mixed peppers (yellow, orange, green)

1/2 bag frozen chopped onions (if you have them in the freezer)

4 cans of white beans, drained and rinsed

1 package of sausage (I used hot Italian sausage this week, but if you don’t feel like frying sausage and mashing it into bits, then slice up some andouille sausage or something similar)

1 32 oz container of chicken stock


The bag of peppers, frozen solid is fine.  Add the onions, too, but I used hot Italian sausage and it was spicy enough that we didn’t notice the absence of onions.

(Note:  I am a terribly clumsy chopper of vegetables and almost always end up cutting myself, so to make life a little less violent I use chopped frozen vegetables when I cook.)

Put 2/3 of the beans and approximately 1- 2 cups of chicken stock in a blender and blend until almost smooth.  Pour that in the pot, along with the rest of the stock and the rest of the beans.

Cook the sausage in a frying pan, drain, pat with paper towels and then put into the crock pot.  Stir everything together.

Heat until hot.  Then hang up the snow shovel and grab a great big bowl and spoon.

I told you this was easy!!!

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