Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Years's End

I hope everyone had a happy holiday. Mine was nice. I'll be glad to get back into a normal routine though. And I'll be really glad to start planning for the 2006 garden. I have a stack of seed catalogs just begging to be scoured and the whole cold month of January to do it. Speaking of seeds, on Christmas Day, during out gift exchange with my husband's family, my 8 year old neice pressed a homemade envelope into my hand. It had little trees drawn all over it and said 'To: Meredith, From: Brittany'. I opened it and there was a little plastic bag of seeds. I asked what they were and she said that she had been saving apple seeds for me. She informed me that she had to chew them out herself and dry them. So I suppose I'll be planting apple seeds this spring. Three years ago she gave me a peach pits that she had saved, after which I bought fruit trees (including two peaches) and she assumed that they were grown from the seed that she had given me. I didn't have the heart to tell her otherwise, so they are affectionately known as 'Brittany's Peach trees".

Yesterday my sister-in-law, my two neices and I went to Longwood Gardens to catch the christmas lights and christmas floral display. I love Longwood and have been there many times. For those of you that have never been there, it is an old Dupont estate in southeastern Pennsylvania. This particular pair of Duponts were very into horticulture and created a spectacular property filled with specimen plantings and fountains and several enormous glass conservatories. It is now one of the premiere horticultural institutions in the United States. For Christmas, the conservatories were filled with a mix of amaryllis, paperwhites, pointsettia, tulips, camellias, red-osier dogwood, and winterberry holly. There were many deocrated christmas trees throughout. Absolutely beautiful. And even entertaining to an 8 year old and a soon to be 13-year old. It was a nice break from winter. They are celebrating their 100th anniversary in 2006. Here are some photos I swiped from their website.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Merry Christmas!

This is funny.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Field Day

I went to see a future bridge replacement. I looked at wetlands and habitat and stream substrate and aquatic macroinvertebrates. The day was fairly nice but the water was very cold (I had to pick up and measure rocks from the stream bottom). This bridge is in Ephrata Borough in Lancaster County.

This is an old mill near the bridge. It is owned by Ephrata Borough and has been restored. I wish I new what they used it for. The stonework was beautiful.

Chickadees and Robins were hopping everywhere. They were eating the fruit of Tartarian Honeysuckle along the banks of Cocalico Creek. This one came fairly close

Tons of Sycamores along the banks and in the floodplain. My favorite tree, especially in wintertime.

And for Judith, a picture of my very first crochet project. My super warm hat. The picture is kind of washed out so it's hard to see that perfect stitchery. Just kidding. There is a soon-to-be-done matching scarf also. All around, a good day int the field.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


What is wrong with me? Ever since the deep fried pickles, I'm drawn to deep fried other things. Savory things though, not interested in deep fried Snickers bars etc. Here is a recipe for deep fried garlic cloves and green olives. What about roasted red peppers? That might be good. I will definitely try the garlic cloves though. That sounds awesome.

separated at birth?

Cheney smirking as he exits after breaking the Senate tie to cut the deficit by gutting programs for poor people. Haha! What fun.

Check out the identical smirks. Awwwww, poor Who's down in Whoville.....Oh, wait....That's us.

Shortest day of the year

Happy winter solstice!!! The day of longest night. Actually, solstice means 'standing still'. The sun makes it's lowest arc of the year and offically occurred at 10:35 a.m. today. The roots of winter solstice come from the ancient fear that the failing light would never return unless humans intervened with anxious vigil or antic celebrations. Seems like we're still doing that, especially in these next few days. Actually, many of our modern day 'Christmas traditions' come from old solstice traditions. Things like Christmas trees, mistletoe, the Yule log, and especially wreaths. Wreaths have been made for thousands of years to symbolize the wheel of the year and the completion of another cycle. They were traditionally made of holly (representing female) and ivy (representing male).

As little as we pay attention to things like the path of the sun today, it's amazing to think that ancient civilizations pinpointed the date and time exactly and even built fantastic architectural feats to commemorate and measure the two solstices. Stonehenge of course is the most famous, representing an exact marker for both the winter and summer solstices.

And then there is Newgrange in Ireland, which is approximately 5,000 years old (older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids) and is built to accept a shaft of light deep in it's central chamber at dawn of the winter solstice. Pretty cool to think about.

I do think a great deal about day length and I do notice the sun's path across my little part of sky. I am elated that today is the halfway point. Every day from hear to June 21st we will add a little bit of light and gradually this pesky fatigue and overwhelming desire to hibernate will shed and come some early day in february, I will wake feeling like a new person. So tonight is a celebration of sorts. And I will walk the dogs this evening relishing the darkness, knowing that tomorrow it is on the ebb and light will again be slowly making it's way back in.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

An Early Merry Christmas!

All is not lost. Cooler heads have prevailed in the Dover Decision. It will go to the Supreme Court on appeal I'm sure, but at least the school districts waiting like vultures to introduce ID into their own science curriculum will have to wait a little while longer. The Judges conclusion was pretty scathing, saying that the defendants 'lied repeatedly' and referencing the 'blatant inanity' of the schoolboard trying to disguise this as anything but religion in the classroom. Cheers to U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III (bush appointee) for not being a rubber stamp for the Bush administration and calling it like he sees it.

Monday, December 19, 2005

seven songs

I've been tagged by Liz to list seven songs I'm into right now. I'm not sure I can name seven. yesterday when I was cleaning, I donned an apron and hung out with Al Green, Nat King Cole, Billy Holiday, and Jimmy Cliff, which was fun, but that's all old stuff. This will be hard.

Here are the instructions: List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now. Post these instructions in your blog along with your seven songs. Then tag seven other people to see what they’re listening to.

Okay, after much deliberation, here are my seven songs.

1. Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc. off Demon Days. Don't ask my why. This is totally not my style of music, but when I hear it on the radio, I always turn it up and it makes me smile.

2. Billy Bragg - Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards

3. Billy Bragg - There is power in a union

4. The Maytals - Pressure Drop, from the Harder They Come soundtrack

5. Jimmy Cliff - You can get it you really want, also from the Harder They Come soundtrack

6. Billy Holiday - Strange Fruit

7. Billy Squire - Christmas is the time to say I love you, from some silly 80s christmas compilation.

What a weird list. I don't have seven people to tag, so I tag only Judith.

Busy, Busy, Busy

I'ts been so long. Sorry. Last week I was at a conference entitled "NEPA and the Transportation Decision Making Process". What a whole mess of fun that was. It was in Clearfield, PA, about three hours away from home. I wasn't enjoying being away. One positive was that I went to a restaurant that serves the largest hamburger in Pennsylvania. I didn't partake, not did anyone in our party. Pretty disgusting if you ask me. You win $250 bucks if you can finish in a few hours. I did have fried pickles for the first time. Just deep fried dill pickles, which I'm embarassed to say were fantastic. Strange but true.

I got to drive home on Thursday afternoon during the lovely snow/ice storm, so a trip that normally takes three hours took seven. I was by myself and was not having a good time. The route back is also know as seven mountains, lots of steep grades with runaway truck ramps. On the biggest of the hills, heading down, I peed myself a little. That's how scared I was. Occasionally I had to pry my hands from the wheel because I was griopping it so tight I was cutting off the circulation to my fingers. Fun.
During my ordeal of a drive, I made a repeated pledge that should I make it home, I will never complain about cooking or cleaning or anything domestic ever again. I just wanted to get home so badly. So over the weekend, the house got cleaned and I made two "comfort food" meals. On Friday I made Martha's macaroni and cheese and her meatloaf recipe. Martha's macaroni and cheese is awesome. Just cheesy, buttery goodness. And I'm not a lover of meat loaf, but her meatloaf trancends. I made tomato jam over the summer and slathered that all over the top prior to baking and that just put it over the top. I will be eating it for lunch for the next several days. Last night, I made pork and sauerkraut. Yummm. In the slow cooker, with apples and onions mixed in, letting the sauerkraut get all brown....served over mashed potatoes made with real sour cream and butter from the raw milk farmer down the road. Anyway, just counting down the days til Christmas. I feel ready this year, for the first time in a long time. I might even keep the cooking marathon going through the new year.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

John Lennon

I feel old. I heard on the radio this morning that today is the 25th anniversary of Lennon's death. I thought "that can't be right". I actually looked it up and couldn't believe it was true. My God. I am old. I can distinctly remember something that happened 25 years ago. Well, sort of distinctly remember. I was 10 and I was at a party at my piano teachers house with all her other piano students. We played a game. The teacher, Mrs. Brown, came out with a tray with little pictures taped on it that were cut out of magazines and we had 60 seconds to correctly identify what the pictures were of. We were to write the answers on tablets she had provided. The winner got a prize. A new book of piano pieces, but still, it was a prize. I got them all but one. There was a picture of a man with glasses walking with a woman who had long hair and was oriental. I had never seen these people before and was confident that if I didn't know it, none of the other kids would know it either. I was wrong. We had to put our little notepads on the table and go over the answers and everyone could see that I hadn't answered that one and I could see that everyone else had answered it. When we got to that answer, my teacher and all the other kids were incredulous that I did not know who John Lennon was. They weren't necessarily being mean, but they laughed. I can still remember the feeling of my face burning with embarassment, staring straight ahead, eyes tearing up part with embarassment, part with anger. I won, but it no longer mattered. Every time I had to play out of that book, I remembered feeling so stupid. When I went home I was angry at my mother for depriving me of exposure to something, I wasn't sure what, that would have enabled me to recognize John Lennon. What kind of parents did I have? I hated that a lot of people knew something that I didn't know. And they knew that I didn't know it. I swear that was one of those formative moments, and even at 10, I recognized that it would influence me for the rest of my life.

Creepy with a capital C

Santorum is creepy with a capital C. On his website, he's shown standing with John McCain, who apparently is supporting his campaign. McCain is one of the few Republicans I can stand. Pretty much him and Specter. Why does McCain sell out all the time. Why no strong words on Cheney trying to make it okay to torture at Gitmo or Abu Garib or wherever our shadow prisoners are being held. McCain was a POW for christ's sake and he refers to Cheyney's view as 'a difference of opinion'. What happens to people that they can compromise their values like that. Anyway, back to creepy Santorum. Already we have Santorum ads running in PA. The election is next November and already he's saturating the airwaves. The ads appear to be illegal though and Casey has filed a complaint because nobody knows who is donating the money to the group 'responsible' for the ads. This is gonna be a rough year if this crap is starting up already.

In other news, I went to the worlds worst Chinese buffet for lunch today with my co-workers. I don't usually go out to lunch, prefering to save money and eat leftovers from home. But since others were going, and it's new and nobody had been before I tagged along. Why do people enjoy enormous quantities of bad food? I would say 3/4 of the stuff there was just fast food....chicken nuggets, french fries, pizza, pasta, tons of deserts like jello and ice cream. The few ethnic dishes I had were bad. How can you screw up things like chicken in garlic sauce or black pepper chicken? Anyway, everyone agreed that it sucked and we'd never go there again. Yet we watched table after table of people go back for seconds, thirds, and sometimes fourths, loading up their plates with crap that wasn't even Chinese food. The guy at the table next to us, who was very large, ate three heaping plates of MASHED POTATOES with some greasy looking gravy. Why? I have never understood the attraction to places that obviously favor quantity over quality. It doesn't matter if it's cheap if it tastes horrible. And the funny thing is, we went there based on the recommendation of like 10 other people in another department that raved about it. Maybe we went to the wrong place.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The first big storm of the season

Somehow it doesn't seem quite as cold when there is snow on the ground. Without snow, everything looks sharp and brittle and freezer burnt. With snow on the ground, everything is softer and just calmer and for whatever reason, less cold. I know, this makes no sense. So Thursday we're supposed to get a 'big' storm. Six plus inches! Yay! Winter Storm Watch! It just might be a three day weekend.

The black helicopters

I have a statcounter account, which allows me to see who visits my blog and how long they stay and what keywords they used to direct them to my blog. And probably all of you have this also, so this isn't news, but it's interesting for me to see who's reading. Once I had someone that worked at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia read my blog and of course I picture Martha herself paging through my daily musings. In actuality, it's probably a receptionist killing time on her lunch hour, acidentally coming across it after googling 'toilet' or something equally generic. So imagine my suprise when this morning I see a Washington D.C. visitor with a rather official looking IP address and guess which post they read. Yes, that's right, the Cunningham one. And I'm probably being totally paranoid, but with this administration you just never know. Anyway, it freaked me out a little. You think you're just typing away in relative anonymity and then your little entry is plucked from cyberspace and read by who exactly? and why? Strange. Anyway, if you don't have statcounter or some other way of tracking viewers, I'd get one. It's really interesting to see all those people that read but never comment. I was a little shocked by how many there were. Shocked and freaked out. Fodder for endless paranoid thoughts.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

how fun.....

Looks like a sex scandal is connected to the Duke Cunningham thing...which is now connected to the CIA.....which was also connected to the Abramoff thing......which is somehow probably connected to the Plame/Libby thing. Hopefully, this sex scandal will involve Bush receiving oral sex from someone (please God let it be Jeff Gannon) and we can get the whole impeachment process under way because obviously lying about a war and having no strategy of getting out of it, torturing and concealing prisoners and then lying about it, bankrupting the country, allowing New Orleans to melt down, and destroying the middle class just aren't grounds. The sex scandal thing might get interesting if it ever sees the mainstream media light of day, cause apparently Cunningham was a self-loathing, closeted homosexual, voting repeatedly against anything to do with furthering homosexual rights. There seem to be an awful lot of self-loathing, closeted gays floating around in the Bush administration, so if we ever find out what went on in the 'hospitality bedrooms' of the Watergate Hotel, it might get really good. There is no end to the hypocrisy of these people.

Walking through the woods on a snowy morning

I worked out in the field yesterday. On a site north of Harrisburg slated for development. Sometimes I don't like what I do, cause I'm pretty much the harbinger of doom. When I show up, the party's over.....the woods or field or whatever is gonna be visited by earthmoving equipment soon after. The site was hilly and wooded with some small wetland areas. It was very quiet with a little bit of snow on the ground.

It was cold, but I warmed up in a few minutes after walking around. When you do wetland delineations or environmental site assessments, and you find yourself crashing through brush on undeveloped land, white tail deer quickly become your best friends. It doesn't usually take long to find a deer trail, which are usually wide enough for a person and very direct. There must have been a lot of deer on this property, cause there were deer trails everywhere. Tons and tons of deer tracks. A red-tailed hawk and 'teenage' offspring were circling overhead, stopping every once in a while to see what I was doing, their calls pretty much the only noise other than what I was making. Chickadees and white-throated sparrows hopped about in thickets of multiflora rose. Songbirds in the woods, that don't often see people, get awfully close because they are so curious. It was a nice morning but I felt terrible because I know that by this time next year, it will be an office complex, completely paved over, with just some cookie cutter landscaping against the building's foundation. Nothing to give chickadees a place to flit about and no place for deer to make their trails, and nothing for the red tails to perch on other than telephone poles. I wonder if I will live to see Pennsylvania built out. Rutgers did a study in 2000 estimating that at the current rate of development in New Jersey, the state will be built out by 2015. All available land (that not under conservation easement or state park/natural area) will have been consumed by developers. That's amazing. Pennsylvania is obviously much bigger than Jersey, but we're 3rd in land consumption in the United States (and 48th in populatio growth) and it just seems that everything is getting developed. And there just doesn't seem to be much you can do. I save what I can, marking wetlands, determining endgangered/threatened species habitat, but if they aren't there, there isn't anything standing in the way. Sometimes it just gets depressing.

Monday, December 05, 2005

House envy

The house tour was nice. I don't have any pictures because we weren't allowed to take any pictures, which I can understand. And of course I went home afterward and looked at my own home and thought of a million ways to apply decorating ideas I had seen to different rooms in my house, which is kind of hard at 6 on a Sunday evening. I love old houses. I suffer from house envy. My house is sort of old (original part built in 1900) but these houses were really old. The beautiful random width floors, the short little doors and low ceilings in some, and the high ceilings and grand moldings in others. I wish I had high ceilings. I used to live in an apartment that was the first floor of victorian mansion. That house had 11 foot ceilings and you simply could not buy a christmas tree that didn't end up looking puny. There were different patterned hardwood floors in every room and columns and trim and a mantelpiece to die for. I miss that apartment. Anyway, after the house tour we went to several antique stores and I bought two more aprons, a set of vintage metalware coasters that have a different flower painted on each one, and a whole bunch of vintage ornaments ($1 a box, woohoo). I hung those on my 'retro' tree last night. My retro tree is a small second tree that I have in 'my' living room. My husband and I have separate living rooms. Not that we occupy them separately, but we can decorate our living rooms any way we want, with no input from the other (we also have our own bathrooms, woohoo). So my living room is cozy with big comfy chairs and a woodstove and lots of books and plants and my retro tree. The lights on the retro tree are the old-fashioned kind that are huge and get hot (remember buring your fingers on them as a kid? I do.) The ornaments were small sta-brite, still in their original box, and were a mix of red and silver and striped and the ones with pictures and words on. In very good condition and cheap. I also bought a little ceramic planter of a cute little reindeer pulling a sleigh, which I filled with greenery that I cut from my yard that night, with a flashlight. Can you tell I was inspired? Anyway, it was good day and now I am consumed with projects to make my ceilings look taller and my floors gleam like they have been waxed with beeswax for the last 200 years and peppering my home with adorable christmas decorations made with greenery and fresh fruit and dried seed pods etc. etc. etc. I need to have a party or something.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Christmas House Tours

Sunday is the annual Marietta Christmas Candlelight Tour, where you get to walk through 8 restored historic homes that are decorated in all their holiday finery. This is the 7th year that I have gone on the tour and I totally look forward to it. Here is the tour lineup. I used to live in Marietta and these are homes that I've walked and driven past many times, composing in my head the lives that I think these people lead. There is something very satisfying in actually getting to tour their home and see how right or horribly wrong you were. The first house, the one with the tower, I've been in before. I drove past that house for years, totally pining to see the inside, cause it just looked so fabulous. Two years ago it was on the tour and I got my chance. My friends and I were were so excited on the walk there. When we got inside, our mouths dropped open and stayed open, through each room of each floor. And not because we were impressed. This house was like the head-on collision of Dynasty and Dallas. This house had been decorated to within an inch of it's life in about 1981 and then declared off limits. Nothing had changed. Everything matched: upholstery matched valances matched pillows matched cutains matched towels matched knick-knacks. A family member stood in every room making sure that nobody touched or stole anything (as if). We trudged in a long line of silent people with their jaws dragging on the floor. Everybody looked at each other wide-eyed. This is the also house with the famed monkey-room. A garden type room where everything was monkey. And I am scared of monkeys, so I didn't stay in there long. Monkey lamps, monkey chairs, monkey chandelier, monkey stencils, a very creepy monkey-paw ashtray (real). Everywhere you look....Monkeys. I will take a digital camera with me...hopefully we can take pictures. You will not believe this room. Anyway, I'm really excited. Maybe I'm a little voyeuristic, but I love seeing how other people live. If you look at the lineup, my favorite house of all times is on the tour this year for the first time (for me). The little yellow house with the wrap-around porch and the columns and the black shutters (#6). If that house ever went up for sale, I would seriously consider kissing the garden and the fruit trees goodbye. I've built that house up in my mind for so long, hopefully it lives up to my expectations. I'll let you know.


Is it just me, or are things looking better? It feels like finally, the average American is now seeing things (the Bush Administration) for what they actually are. It's like being a kid and screaming over and over again that there is a boogeyman in the closet and your parents never believe you and then finally, after 5 years, your lazy parent opens the closet door and says "Oh my God! There really is a homocidal maniac in your closet. You were right." It sucks that things had to get so bad before the wool got pulled back. And sadly, they continue to get worse. But I was beginning to think that the general population would ever see that there was anything evil and bad and stinky about the people currently in charge of the country. Now I will just sit and wait for the word 'impeachment' to start reverberate across the country. It can only be a matter of time, I hope.