Saturday, August 30, 2008

Did I say gimmick?

Yeah, I did.

Yesterday I called Geraldine Ferraro's 1984 candidacy a gimmick. Approximately six hours before John McCain announced that his vice presidential pick was a woman named Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska.

Freakin' uncanny.

Let's hope she does for McSame what Ferarro did for Fritz.

Friday, August 29, 2008

A dream I never dared

I never imagined that I would live to see last night, an event when a black man was nominated as candidate for President of the United States of America. I never imagined that a woman would have come so close to winning that nomination either. I figured those things were far off, perhaps something even to be done by our opponents over in the R camp. They had Margaret Chase Smith, after all, and they've got Olympia and Susan in the Senate from Maine while we have sent nothing but white men there for a while. We do have a woman running for Tom Allen's old Congressional seat (Chellie Pingree) and I think she's got a real shot of getting there.

Last night I sat on my couch and got goosebumps when Barack Obama accepted the nomination of his party. It simply took my breath away. Not only have we, the Democrats who have so long talked the talk of inclusion, nominated a black man to be president, but truly he was the best candidate out there AND he is likely to win. This is not a Geraldine Ferraro situation, where she was placed on the ticket as a gimmick to show how progressive we all were. No, Obama is the leading man in this drama, and because he was the best contestant.

It was cruel what the Dems did to Ferraro, throwing her into the fire like that just to make a point. She was right when she said that if her name had been Gerald Ferraro, she'd have been nowhere near that ticket. It's true. She was a gimmick and the boys used her as such. She was no more prepared to compete on a national stage than I am. And despite all the fun we had at George I's expense, he was the guy who ran the CIA for Nixon. He may have been socially inept, but he was smart and he played dirty. There aren't a lot of people who could go up against him and come out on top.

This primary battle was different, though. Hillary was her own woman, not put up to anything by the more powerful men in her life. Truly, I don't think there are more powerful men in her life. I think she is the alpha in her world - at work, at home and wherever she goes. Aside from that, she ran a good race, fought hard, and did not win. She pulled out all the stops and tried everything she knew to get the delegate count she needed, but it simply did not happen. Were my candidate faced with those challenges, I would want him to fight the same way and try every trick he knew. Good for her. But I am still glad Obama won. He's my guy.

I feel like I should be holding my breath. This is a moment I never thought I would see, and I fear that if I exhale to take another breath it will slip away, dissolving like fog in a dream, leaving me heartbroken as the sun streams through the early morning window. It is almost too good to be true. He is right on everything, he holds a high ethical standard and demands the same from the people around him. He has a beautiful, powerful wife who can hold her own in any forum and beautiful children.

Comparisons have been made with Jack Kennedy and with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And that scares me. Both of those men were killed violently in the prime of their lives. Please, God, keep this one safe. Please. Our country needs him and his message and his hope so badly.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Now THAT's a toolbox!!

So I shared with a few people the big news of my new tool box purchase. Few seemed as excited about this event as I, but I can understand that, I suppose. I don't get all a-twitter about their purchases.

But this is a special tool box. It is HUGE. OK, not as huge as some, but still bigger than anything anybody I know owns. It is four feet wide, two feet deep and two feet tall. That's 16 cubic feet, more than your typical chest freezer. For tools.

I mentioned in passing that the Home Despot guys put it into my truck with a forklift, but nobody took the bait. I was very sad.

So I got the thing home and went to the lumber store to get some wood. And then I learned that it would not allow me to get a full sheet of plywood into the truck bed because the feet were in the way. OK, so I need to build a platform. I used some scrap stuff I had from the job I am working on and built a thing with 2X8s for the uprights and 2X12s for the platform, and 2X4s bracing the uprights and adding support. I then cut a couple of squared U-bolts to make L-bolts, drilled some holes in the lumber and hooked the L part into the holes in the box's feet, fed the threaded end through the wood and secured it with nuts and washers. There is probably 6 inches of clearance underneath, which is really more plywood than I want to work with at one time anyway. If I am working on a job that requires more than eight or nine sheets of plywood, I'll have it delivered.

So anyway, I have this spiffy cool tool box. It is mounted in my new truck and is now filled up with tools. I think it is just right for my needs. I can fit everything in it that I need, and I can take it out of the truck if I need to do that too. Of course, I may have to rent a couple of guys named Bubba and Urk to do the lifting, but it will come out.

Somebody please tell me it's cool.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The War Horse

I watched the 2008 Democratic Party National Convention coverage last night on C-SPAN. I actually enjoyed things much better than if I had to endure those awful talking heads in between and over the "less important" speakers on network television. C-span just let the cameras roll, and that was nice.

I was horrified by what a terrible public speaker Nancy Pelosi is, or seems to be. Maybe it was the teleprompters giving her a hard time.

And then I was touched and amazed by Caroline Kennedy and the tribute to her uncle Ted. I saw Maria Shriver (attending without her governator husband) wipe away tears several times. And Ted. God bless Ted. He's an old scoundrel and a scamp, but dammit he is the best there is when it comes to health care and progressive issues. He was the only one there last night to say "gay". He is apologetically liberal, and like his brothers before him, has never drawn a paycheck for his years in the Senate (they have all turned them over to charity. The Kennedys get into politics to serve, not to be served.) I just hope he lives long enough to see health care for all happen. I watched his last convention speech this evening and cried all the way through. I saw Caroline and Maria cry too, so I was not alone.

I could write lots of stuff here to make it look like I have done research into the history of Ted and the rest of the Kennedy clan, but I won't. (Here's the Wikki page if you really want to know that stuff.)

This is what I know: Ted has been a United States Senator from Massachusetts since before I was born. The other two brothers, Jack and Bobby, were killed before I was born. All three brothers, like all men in the clan, got into trouble, were renowned for womanizing and drinking hard and living fast. And they all understood the advantages of their birth, and they all went into public service. And they all, save Ted, died much, much too young. I grew up partly in Eastern Massachusetts, where families in my town often had two portraits on the wall in the formal parlor: one of the current pope in Rome, and the other of "our dear Jack." I was steeped in the Kennedy legend before I ever understood the first thing about politics.

Ted has been a champion of the poor, of the working people, of women and minorities and gay men and lesbians. He understands that health care ought not to be a privilege reserved only for the wealthy, but a birthright of all people who belong to this country. All my life growing up, I heard that America was the best, the biggest, the strongest, the wealthiest, that we had the smartest scientists and the brightest people making laws and enforcing them - in short that we were superior in every way to other nations. Only now our infant mortality rate rivals that of some third world countries. We have more people living in poverty than ever before. Illiteracy is on the rise. Our roads and bridges are crumbling. All of the things that made us so great - all of the ideals and programs instituted in the 20th century through the New Deal and beyond, have been stripped away, one at a time and now we are beginning to see the results.

I hope that Ted lives long enough to see the pendulum begin to swing back in his direction. I hope that he gets a chance to vote on universal heath care that will be meaningful. I hope that he gets to vote on a roads and bridges project that will rebuild our infrastructure. I hope he lives long enough to vote on a bill to create and maintain really useful public transportation. I would love to see him live long enough to serve a few years on the Supreme Court, should he ever decide to retire from the Senate.

I don't know that he will, though. There is a part of me that fears that he will not live to see Obama's inauguration. And that part of me has a hole in it. I cannot imagine a Senate without Ted, and I am sure there are plenty of Senators who feel the same way. I watched him last night and I watched after his speech was over how Caroline and his kids and his wife all gathered around in what looked like a warm greeting and tribute. But I saw that Vicky had to guide him, that he looked lost until he heard Caroline's voice steering him first around the stage and then away from it. A friend has wondered aloud if he might be blind due to the effects of the tumor and the surgery, and I can see how she might think that. He had the look of a blind man last night - looking in almost the right direction, reaching out and grasping for the microphone at the podium to get his bearings, and that fleeting look of fear when he couldn't quite tell which direction to go next. Then Caroline and Vicky were there and the million-watt smile returned and he waved and grinned and was Ted again and not the scared old man who was lost and could not see.

I would dearly like to think that I have not just watched Ted's last appearance at a Democratic National Convention, but I fear I have. I sat on my couch in Otter Creek, Maine and let the tears flow down my face. There isn't a lot I let make me cry anymore, but the sadness I felt watching an old war horse stomp around one last time, and watching those around him protect him from harm and the love and respect showed him by the communities closest to his heart (his family and his Senate and his party) just filled me to overflowing.

Here's a link to the AP story of his appearance. I can't seem to make a good picture come through.

More thoughts later, I think. Work for now.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Breakfast of champions

I helped out a friend this week by preparing a tray of nibbles for her to take to a fancy-schmancy function. It is one of my favorite easy and impressive recipes. I made up a platter this morning, and had just enough left over to have a few of these delightful little rolls for breakfast.

First, you take thin sliced roast beef and lay it flat on a prep board. Then you break a piece of chicory (endive is ok too) in half and lay it on the beef. Then you put a few little crumbles of bleu cheese on the leafy stuff, and roll the whole business up into a tidy little roll. I cut them in half and stab a toothpick through them for easy handling by circulating guests. For breakfast I skip the toothpick and just pick 'em up with my fingers.

Bleu cheese and roast beef for breakfast. That's a guaranteed good start to the day. Yum.

Oh, and a word about bleu cheese. L hates it. Won't even eat anything off a plate that has any bleu cheese anything on it for fear of contamination. I have only developed a taste for it in recent years. I like a brand called St. Pete's Select, produced by a company called Amablu. It is available at my local Hannaford grocery store and it is aged in natural limestone caves in the riverbank in Faribault, Minnesota. The temperature and humidity are perfect and constant, and it shows in the creamy sharpness of the cheese. Faribault sees temperatures that range from 40 below in the deepest winter to 110 in the heat of summer. The caves don't care. They are just right. All the time. Nature is so freakin' cool!

We lived and worked in the Faribault area for a year and a half. We didn't like it much, and it didn't really like us any better. But the cheese was really good. And it still is. I just glad we can get it here.

Monday, August 18, 2008

On trust, betrayal and progress

So remember my friend who was treated so badly at the hospital? (See Labels.) Well, she and her partner, plus my friends K and D, and I all trooped up to the hospital in Ellsworth to meet with the guy in charge of it all. He's the whiz-bang CEO guy, the top administrator, which means he is not a doctor and not prone to the "doctors-protect-doctors" thing that so often happens.

Six of us crammed into a teeny little meeting room and my friend N told of her experience in the ER, as did her partner C. Doug (the hospital guy) listened and took notes. I saw him blink an extra time once or twice, and suck in his breath at the appropriate moments. His attention seemed genuine and his concern sincere. When she finished, he said "I am shocked."

To his credit, he did not try to defend the hospital staff, nor did he try to justify what had happened. He was able to explain how the handwritten note disappeared, and in a manner that I understood and could believe without having to like it (notes are read into dictation for later typing and then tossed - it makes sense logistically, although it originally smacked of cover-up). He promised to look into the situation, to speak to the ER doc in question to get his side of the story and to check out the dictated notes.

My friends are guarded in their optimism. After all, as queer people, we are accustomed to being promised things that never happen (think Clinton administration).

Trust is tricky stuff. It is often granted to medical professionals because of who they are. With others it takes years to build. With anyone, it can be destroyed in seconds. What happened to N and C was a betrayal and a violation. It was disrespectful and rude and there are no excuses. If a provider of health care has a problem with anyone's sexual orientation or religion or politics or whatever, they need to park those problems and behave professionally. Until last week, my friends had nothing negative to say about their hospital experiences in Ellsworth. But one nasty turn in the ER has soured them, probably for months, perhaps even years. It all depends on how this thing comes to some kind of resolution.

What it boils down to is this: two hospitals are involved, and that complicates things. N's primary care person (a PA) is out of a local health clinic that is administered by the hospital in Bar Harbor. But the ER she went to was in Ellsworth. The PA called the ER doc and gave him a bunch of stuff over the phone. That's where the "gay" (and circled!!) came from. Its position at the top of the page indicates that it is probably the first thing the PA told the ER doc about the patient. More notes about pain and symptomology were further down the page.

Now in an ideal world, the ER doc would have read some kind of professional riot act to the PA when she even mentioned that my friend is a lesbian. An astute guy would have told her in no uncertain terms that such information was unimportant, indeed irrelevant to the situation. Remember, of course, that lesbians DO, in fact, get pregnant, and we DO in fact get STDs. It astounds me that anyone got to be a PA thinking that, and that an ER doc was dumb enough to write it down. Holy shit.

But that's neither here nor there. It is over, it is done. What remains to be seen now is what kind of apology letter the ER doc writes to my friends, and how they are treated the next time they come into the ER. There is some real fear that they will be labeled as troublemakers. It is a very small community after all. Word of a doctor getting chewed out by the big shot will get around, and the story will circulate. We'll see what kind of care they get.

But for now we have hope. Guarded hope, but hope nonetheless. I think progress has been made. Although he tends to use a lot of bureaucrat-speak, Doug really seemed to understand the urgency of the matter and just what potential for tragedy there was in this incident. We'll all keep our fingers crossed.

And before I forget, let us not believe that hate does not exist in this idyllic area. It was just a year or two ago when a woman of African American descent was attacked and called racial epithets. The drunken white guy kicked her pregnant belly, threw beer cans at her and shouted about "white power" in the parking lot of a gas station and convenience store. He was arrested, and the community rallied around the victim, but the point is that the crime was committed. It was real. It happened. And it happened not five miles from where my friends live. This attack happened in broad daylight with lots of witnesses. How difficult would it be for something much worse to happen in the dark of night, fueled by too many beers and bravado? And how long would it take for the police to come?

Stay tuned for updates.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Health care

So I got to bend Tom Allen's ear for a few minutes last night at a fancy-schmancy fundraiser thing here on MDI. Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell was there, as were at least one other sitting US Senator and a retired ambassador. (For my far-away readers, Tom Allen is a Democratic Congressman running to defeat incumbent US Senator Susan Collins. He's running an uphill battle against an incumbent with a zillion-dollar war chest. Donate to his campaign here.)

The thing I told Tom about? Health care. Or the lack of it.

See, I don't have health insurance. None. Nothing. I get hurt, the hospital will send me the bill for the whole thing, not just the deductible.

So I do what I can to stay safe, considering what I do for work. When I climb, I tie off. I wear gloves and safety glasses and ear plugs and steel-toed shoes. I do what I can.

But I've got a family history of heart disease. My paternal grandmother had several heart attacks before she died, and my father has had bypass surgery.

I have high cholesterol. The doctor prescribed Lipitor years ago, and it worked pretty well. Then I got a new insurance company that wouldn't pay for the top-shelf Lipitor, so I got put on a generic version. Only it nearly killed me. It felt as though my muscles were being dissolved from the inside out. I bruised dark purple at the slightest touch. It felt like I had the flu, but worse. When we read the fine print on the literature, it cautioned that severe muscle pain was a rare side effect and that the medicine should be stopped immediately. So that's what I did.

The doctors tried to put me on another generic thing, but that made me feel about as bad, and I stopped it. At the time, I was employed by a company that provided health insurance, so we decided to wait until the new insurance kicked in and I'd go back on the Lipitor.

Only I lost that job (seems I am not a boat builder!) and now I have no insurance. At all.

So I don't take the Lipitor. And I worry. I don't eat the stuff I should, I know, but from what I have read, diet really has very little to do with cholesterol levels - as little as 10 percent of the overall level is affected by diet. Frankly, that's not enough to convince me to eat sprouts and wheat germ and give up real food like butter and beef.

So I told Tom about this. About how I have no insurance. How I am self-employed and cannot afford what is out there. And how I can't afford the Lipitor I need and how I can't take the generic stuff. I asked him to do something NOW, please, to make it so I could have health care again. I told him that it was IMMORAL for anyone to make a profit providing life-saving care. Health care should be a right, not just something the wealthy can afford. I deserve to be able to take the medicine that may well save my life.

I don't want more money, I want health care when I need it. I want to know that the medicine my doctor prescribes will not be overridden by some bean counter in an insurance company high-rise hundreds of miles away. That's offensive to me, and it ought to be illegal for anyone to override a physician's directives.

In the meantime, we are tightening our belts, which may result in us eating better. More rice and beans and less meat will be on our plates this winter. I just spent nearly the equivalent of a month's rent to HALF fill the oil tank. The thermostat is going to be turned way back this winter. Any money we've got is probably not going to pay for Lipitor. It's just too expensive.

So we hope. We go forward and we hope that an Obama administration will do something that will allow me to have health insurance. We hope that the US Senate has enough Democrats to force the Republicans to play nice.

We hope I don't have a stroke before that happens.

As I told Tom Allen last night, I'll vote absentee just in case.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


A meeting has been arranged between my friend and her partner, me, two other friends who are local community activists, and the CEO of the hospital for early next week. The CEO has previously said he wants to know when ANYONE has a negative experience in his hospital. So we're going to tell him what happened. I will update here after the meeting. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


A friend recently related a disturbing experience that happened to her when she went in search of medical treatment at her regular health care provider.

She went to see her doctor complaining of abdominal pain. The doctor sent her to the ER. While she was in the ER and dealing with the triage nurse, she noticed a piece of paper with some of her medical information on it. Directly under her name, in quotation marks and circled, was the word "gay".

That can't be what I think it is, thought my friend, but she saw it again clearly in the room when the doctor was examining her.

She asked him about it, and his response was "oh, you weren't supposed to see that. I don't want to get X (my friend's primary care MD) in trouble."

She said she went to her doctor the next day and confronted her about it, and the doctor was oblivious to the reasons for my friend's outrage.

Even if my friend made half of this up (not likely) it is terrifying to consider.

My friend was (and is) concerned about violence being visited upon her person. She is about as butch as me, but weighs less than half what I do. She's teeny. Being butch won't do you much if three knuckle-dragging rednecks decide to take out their sexual insecurities upon your head in a parking lot at night when you weigh something around 100 pounds dripping wet in a sweater.

Now for those of you who may not understand what is making my friend and me so angry, here's the basic run-down:

The justification used was that the note was written so the ER doc would know that my friend "was not pregnant and didn't have any STDs to test for."

Reality check here: because of the nature of the sexual behavior, lesbians are the group at lowest risk for sexual transmission of HIV. That does not mean we are immune, merely that we are the group at lowest risk for transmission. Not zero risk, lowest risk. There is a HUGE difference. Nor are exempt from any other form of sexually transmitted disease, and just because a woman is a lesbian does not mean she cannot or will not become pregnant, in any of the usual ways that event occurs.

The thought that one physician, never mind two, could believe this misinformation is horrifying. The alternative is that they used this bogus reasoning as a pathetic excuse for their outrageous behavior. Anyone feel any better about this yet? Yeah. Me neither.

The point is, now and as it always should be, that a person's sexual orientation HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THEIR MEDICAL TREATMENT!!!!! Providers should take universal precautions with everyone they treat. Doctors should ask the same battery of questions of each patient as determined by appropriate diagnostic protocol.

If news of this woman's queer status were leaked outside the hospital because of that document, it would be a grave breach of confidentiality rules. Agreed. And we all know that never happens. No nurse or CNA or doctor EVER goes home with interesting stories about what transpired at the ER that night.

Bullshit. I have known plenty of health care providers. Some are more ethical than others, but all have stories from work. It is human nature to share one's experiences.

So it is not out of the realm of possibility that someone from the hospital might tell someone at home about this woman who came through the ER the other night whose doctor had written "GAY" at the top of her folder. Can you imagine a doctor doing that? Oh, you know her, too. She works at such-and-such, or she drives that little truck with the stickers, you know, yeah, the blue one. And now skinhead wannabe boyfriend has a target for his hate. Bingo.

And the doctor has no clue.

After we had both vented our frustration and outrage, I was able to think a little bit more clearly.
I suggested that she call the Maine Human Rights Commission and gave her the phone number.
I suggested that she call a lesbian doc with whom she has a friendly relationship and who works at the same office and tell her what she had experienced.
I suggested she call a local activist guy I know because he's smarter than I am and probably knows lots of people who could help. Plus he's got letters after his name and everyone knows him as a stand-up guy. His name was familiar to her from letters to the editor and news stories, she said. He was a practicing psychologist in the area for many decades and is widely respected.

It was also my instinct of course, was to call my friend Jen at the Maine Speak Out Project BUT ITS FUNDING WAS CUT AND IT NO LONGER EXISTS!

These docs need some education, some sensitivity training and some real awareness. The woman doc still does not understand that it is not safe for people to be out in many parts of Hancock County.

So, what else do we do? This really seems like a job for the MSOP, but it's not there any more. I told her to call the Human Rights Commission FIRST because once something is reported there, it becomes a little more real for people like hospital administrators. Someone complaining to a doctor friend might get brushed off, but when the conversation involves "when I spoke with Pat Ryan at the Human Rights Commission in Augusta, she said..." shit is much more likely to happen and mean something when it does.

I also told her to write down everything as it happened, using quotes as much as possible and recording her feelings and fears as the events of the past two days played out. I figured a record like that would be useful somewhere in this mess.

I don't know what else to do. The one organization that would have been perfect to address this thing is gone because of lack of funding. I know there are still volunteers out there, but there is nobody to coordinate or train them. What happened to my friend was outrageous. The automatic cover-up by one doctor for another was outrageous. The fact that the note with the handwritten "GAY" label has now disappeared is outrageous, and possibly illegal, could it be proved.

I guess all I can say is be careful when you go for health care in Hancock County, Maine. Ignorance runs deep here.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Oh man. Take a look at what was under the window sill we took out of the bathroom yesterday. I asked the lady of the house when she had been in the honey business, and she remembered the bees then. Years ago, she said, there were bees under the sill up there. She could hear them buzzing while she sat on the toilet (TMI!!). She called a company that came and took care of it.

But it still scared the crap out of us yesterday.

Friday, August 8, 2008

New things and old

So Wednesday I taught myself how to replace the old rotted sills in a 1949 Cape Cod styled house. The south side of this place takes a real beating from the weather, and it is barely two hundred yards from Frenchman Bay, so it gets plenty of the worst nature has to offer.

We were scraping the window trim in advance of painting when we discovered that the sills were simply rotted. They were punky and soft and saturated and crumbling. I spoke with the owner and got the go-ahead to replace them, and then had something of a minor melt-down.

I have never replaced a sill before. And I had no earthly idea how to do it.


Well, I came home and did some research. I have two marvelous books by local Maine superwoman (Iowa transplant) Dale McCormick: Against the Grain: A Carpentry Manual for Women, and House Mending: Home Repair For The Rest Of Us. They are both out of print and they are both priceless resources for women (or anyone) who wants to build things or maintain their home. No, you can't use mine. Go find your own on a used book on-line place. That's what I had to do.

I Googled a bunch of information, and mostly what I learned was that I would have to pull the whole window out in order to get to the sill. This was so far from what I had hoped would be the case. Damn.

So I went back to Dale's books. They are remarkable things, really, filled with plainly-written language and clear descriptions of what each thing is and what it does. The pictures are original, hand-drawn diagrams of house guts done by Dale and they show what I need to know without confusing things with lots of extra stuff that I don't need. The diagram of the cutaway of a double-hung window was perfect. It showed me exactly what goes on behind all that trim so I would not be surprised by what I found once I started taking off pieces of wood. The sill I finally removed was in pretty bad shape. Take a look:

I plan to do a very extensive report tomorrow with lots of pictures to explain just how this whole thing works, but suffice it to say that the old nasty sill has been replaced with a new one that I made from a raw piece of lumber. I am so utterly pleased with myself!

Stay tuned!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Rain, rain, go away!

This rain is killing me.

Today I got up on my scaffold and began scraping the crown molding (?!) under and behind the drip edge. I was wearing my OSHA-approved harness and lanyard, secured to mostly-kosher tie-off points and wearing my safety glasses and steel-toed shoes. I was a ridiculous thing to look at I am sure, but I was safe. I worked my way from right to left along the length of the scaffold until I got to the end by the addition roof.

Lacking wings, I had to make a platform to stick out there from the scaffold onto the roof so that I could have a safe place to stand. Fine. Down I came with all my gear, to saw up a couple of planks to make a nice sturdy platform. I drilled some holes so that I can run some tie-wire through and around the staging pipes so that nothing runs away while I am out there standing on it. And then I went to the hardware store to get some wire and few odds and ends.

I came back, suited up, put my goodies in a pail to be lifted up to my work platform, tied the bucket to the rope hung there for that purpose, and the skies opened up and poured.

I have truly had enough of this. It seems like every time I get close to accomplishing something, it rains and I have to stop. My new (old) truck is in the garage, awaiting some kind of expensive repairs so that it can become mine, and I don't have the cash to have them done. I have a free truck. All I need is to do the repairs, and I can't afford it because of this damned rain. Grr.

What I really need this week is a couple of cellar clean-outs. Two days each of grunting and toting and hauling of crap, mostly indoors, to a dumpster in the yard. That would be beautiful. Is it going to happen? Not likely. When the sun comes out, maybe, I'll get six calls for that stuff. For now, though, I work around the raindrops and hope the front finally passes through so I can do some work. Sigh.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


Dear god. I forget how rich Newburg sauce is until I make a double batch. Damn. It shouldn't be - it is really nothing more than a standard white sauce, made with cream instead of milk and then with a couple of egg yolks mixed in at the end. You wouldn't think that makes such a difference, but damn. I was so full and so tired last night that I was unable to post.

Oh, quick recipe for Newburg Sauce:
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons flour
1 cup cream
2 egg yolks, slightly scrambled
pinch cayenne

Melt the butter, stir in the flour and make a roux.
Add the cream and stir until it thickens.
Add the scallops or lobster or whatever you like, pre-cooked, and bring them up to temperature in the sauce.
Add the yolks, stirring to incorporate.
dust in the cayenne.
Serve immediately.

Ours are served in popovers that have been hollowed out, but lots of people use puff pastry shells. Makes no difference.


The rain let up for a little while yesterday, so we went for a walk to see what we could see. An easy 3-mile loop on the carriage roads sounded easy enough, right? Well, it seems I had forgotten how steep that little cluster of hills was, and we were right pooped by the time we got home. After a day outdoors, I made the scallops Newburg you see above, and all three of us (pup included) quietly slipped into the sleep of the just. Thunder woke me at around two this morning, but I went right back to sleep. I saw no flashes of lightning worth staying up for.

On our walk, I managed to take a few pretty good pictures. This was Quinn's first time on this walk, and she was so excited she could barely contain herself. Here she is being a very small dog in a very big park.

And here is a waterfall we stopped to admire:

And here is a little stepping-stone waterfall that feeds into a culvert that runs under the carriage road. Quinn is very suspicious of it. Note that her ears look a lot like Dobby's. This is her hesitant and on-guard look. It sounded a lot like the shower, and she hates to have her bath.

And finally, here is one of the bridges over Hadlock Brook. The part of Hadlock Brook that you see here - above Upper Hadlock Pond - is closed to fishing. It serves as the hatchery and incubator area for the native brook trout population that wildlife conservation people are trying to encourage to come back. The fishery was greatly depleted for a while and is beginning to come back, in part because of this kind of effort. But it absolutely HURTS that we cannot fish this perfect little stream. Oh, god! How it aches! Anyway, here's the bridge to take the carriage road over the brook.

There was a brief bit of sunshine this morning when I awoke at 7:45, but it lasted approximately 10 minutes and has been replaced by more clouds and drear. This wet stuff has got to stop, or I'm going to lose my mind or go broke, or maybe both. Grr.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Recipe Friday

It's been a cold, wet, rainy day here on the coast and I decided to make some carrot-ginger soup of which L is particularly fond. I also thought I could share the recipe. It is one of about three vegetarian recipes that I have. It is based loosely on a recipe from the Fog City Diner Cookbook, but only loosely. My proportions are different, I skip a couple of things they do, and I add a few things they don't. Oh, and I use a different method at the end as well. I think that is enough to make it my recipe and not theirs. My apologies to any who disagree.

Carrot-Ginger Soup

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups onions, large dice
2 cups celery, large dice
5 cups carrots, 1 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup minced garlic
2/3 cup grated fresh ginger (piece weighed about 6 ounces to start)
2 cans chicken broth plus two cans water
3/4 cup cream
kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper to taste
chopped scallions (garnish)
Yogurt or sour cream

In a large, heavy pot, sauté the onions in the oil until they become translucent. Add the celery and the carrots and stir around until everything begins to get acquainted. Add the garlic, ginger, chicken broth and water. Cover and let bubble for about 45 minutes until everything is tender.

Remove from heat and blend using an immersion blender (boat motor) until you have a thick puree. You can use a regular blender for this if you want or a food processor, but I prefer the boat motor. I don't have to ladle stuff from one vessel to another and then to a third, working in batches and all. The boat motor lets me use one pot. Taste and add salt and pepper according to your preferences. Add the cream, stir and get ready to serve. Garnish with sour cream and chopped scallions. Makes 8-12 cups. Feeds however many are hungry depending on how you serve it.

We usually serve it over cooked rice to give body to what otherwise looks and feels a lot like baby food.

We also will fry up some extra-firm tofu cubes in toasted sesame oil and a splash of tamari and put those on top of the soup and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Tonight I made some giant-sized Bakewell Cream Biscuits to go with it. Heavenly...

The air up here

So I am working on this job replacing and installing gutters and doing some repair work to the exterior window trim on this old Cape Cod house. The south side of the house takes the brunt of the weather when storms move in. The winds in Nor'easters seem to come from north by east, while the storms themselves move from southwest to northeast. How all of this affects the south side of this house I don't know, but the people who live there and who grew up there report that the south side gets the worst weather, and looking at the state of the windows and some of the rot in evidence, I would have to agree. Maybe the mountains on the island make a difference, or maybe its the way the wind howls in off Frenchman Bay, or maybe this side just catches the winds before they get around in the circle to come in from the northeast, but truly this side of the house takes a beating from mother nature.

So there are windows on the second floor that need work, and rather than take hammer and chisel (if necessary) to the trim while perched atop a ladder, I opted for the sane solution of scaffolding. Only the sane option has some not-so-sane pieces to it.

If you look carefully at the picture, you will see that the far right set of frames is perched atop a stack of cement blocks and some pressure treated lumber. What I did was put down a base of a solid 4 by 8 by 16 cement block, then a cinder block, then another solid block, and then I made a platform out of pressure treated lumber that fits over both stacks of cement and holds them in place so they don't slip around. Then I added one more block of two-by-eight PT and made up the rest with the adjustable screws pegs. It is not ideal, but it is a lot better than some things I have seen on big construction sites, so I can live with it.

To the top left is going to be a problem. I need to rig some kind of platform out there so I can get to the eave to install the gutters. I can reach the windows fine from the scaffold, but the edge of the top eave is going to be an issue. I'll figure something out. So long as I am tied off and secured safely, I'll be ok.

So I got all of this stuff set up yesterday in the brutal humidity, only to have a batch of thunderstorms move in right about when I was finished. No problem, I'll come back tomorrow (today now) when I am fresh and get started then. Only this morning I woke up to the sound of rain dripping on the air conditioner in my bedroom. Crap. Everything outside is soaked. Dew is one thing, fog I can work through. Scaffold work in the rain is just suicidal. Shit. And the indoor work that I could have done today is already done because Seal Harbor ceiling job lady had such a fit and wanted it done right away so I did it for her. Damn. Oh well. It may clear out later and I'll try to get over there. That or tomorrow. What a pain. At least the scaffold is up and mostly ready to go. I have a few more of the yellow pieces that I might put up just so I feel more secure working up top. I'll see how it goes.

I know this is not a terribly insightful or philosophical post, but for now it is where my attention and focus is. More tomorrow perhaps.

Oh, and that's me on top of the scaffold, securing the cross braces and showing the camera my better side.