Monday, September 26, 2016

Surviving the Presidential Debate

As if the long, drawn out, excruciatingly painful Presidential campaign could not get worse, the American public will soon suffer experience 90 minutes of babble - the First Debate of the 2016 campaign.

The two candidates face off Monday night, September 26. I am not looking forward to the occasion, but will reluctantly watch. I do not want to miss whatever happens. It might be boring, it may produce quotes or pictures that will go down in history (positively or negatively), perhaps capture evil looks from the candidates, result in captivating dialogue, bitter verbal exchanges, or an incident no one can imagine beforehand.

Who wants to miss The Donald vs. She Who Would Be Our First Female President?

It will be difficult sitting through the entire spectacle. To make it more palatable, here are a few ideas to survive sanely.

Begin the following preparations a couple of hours before the debate begins:

Purchase a box of expensive chocolates.

Stock your freezer with your favorite ice cream.

Dress for the occasion in a comfortable ensemble – PJs, sweats, anything goes.

Fully charge electronic devices - phone, computer, iPad, etc.

Buy noisemakers. You might decide to support your candidate, or heckle the opposition.

Cook your favorite comfort dish, or order a preferred cuisine – Chinese, Italian, Thai, Japanese, Mexican – what a gastronomically diverse country we live in!

Collect items above and place within easy reach of your most comfortable chair.

Take a pill.

Pour a glass of your favorite wine, beer, or other libation.

Immediately before the debate begins:

Settle into your comfy chair.

Close your eyes, try to relax, take several deep breaths, breathe slowly in and out.

Turn on the TV; any channel. Almost every one plans to televise the debate.

If lucky you will fall asleep before the debate ends (or before it begins at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time), in which case everything missed can be seen and heard on multiple TV stations, the internet, newspapers, Twitter and all other social media outlets immediately after the debate as well as days, weeks, months and forever after.

If really smart you may skip the debate altogether and enjoy whatever activity you would do if not watching the debates.

And still indulge in the ice cream, chocolate, wine, and food. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Best of Boomers Travel into Fall

A vision of the season:
Baby's (a.k.a. my granddaughter's) first fall.
Festivals fill the fall calendar, and hub and I spent a day wandering our town’s Funfest. Saturday’s wet weather kept people indoors, but Sunday’s warm, sunny sky lured crowds outdoors. A variety of activities amused the crowd. Craft vendors sold wares, local businesses promoted products, charities publicized their causes, bands provided music, food stands nourished the hungry, a dog show offered an opportunity for proud owners to show off their best friends, and rides, games and hands-on activities entertained the kids.

Laura Lee Carter of The Adventures of the New Old Farts also had a great time this weekend enjoying the fall colors and some fabulous Celtic music this week at the Spanish Peaks Celtic International Music Festival! Come share in the fun!

Carol Cassara also had travel on her mind this week. When it comes to travel, it's necessary to give up any illusion of control. Over at Heart Mind Soul, Carol Cassara describes her latest travel follies 

Everyone likes to save money when they travel--Carol shares her tried and true budget travel ideas here.

Tom Sightings of Sightings at Sixty is staying home for the next month. Deferring full-time retirement, Tom explains why he remains a Man at Work.

This week on The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about what to do if you were one of the 500 million Yahoo users whose accounts were hacked. The account information stolen includes names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, some passwords and, in some cases, security questions and answers. Credit card and bank account information, which is stored in a different system, wasn’t stolen, Yahoo said.

Wherever you may wander this week, take a few minutes to check out our boomers. They love to hear from you. 
Another vision of the season and
a fall ritual for the youngest generation -
riding to school, or in this case,
riding to the bus stop.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Fall Unfolds



I did not realize September 22 is the first day of fall, or autumn (in the Northern Hemisphere). The word fall stems from Germanic origins. The French contributed the word autumn via Etruscan and Latin words. Whatever you call the season that follows summer (Germanic origin), it crept up on me this year.

The American colonies used the term fall, commonly used in England. When the colonies declared their independence, some patriots widened their vocabulary and, as a protest against the mother country, adopted the term autumn. Not really, but it makes a good story…

Fall arrives every year at the same time. No surprises, no pre-announcements or preparations necessary. I suppose I was not paying attention. That happens at times when in retirement mode.

One reason I was unaware of the arrival of the momentous event is because I made a calculated effort to minimize listening to the news, watching news, and perusing social media. Although the entire world will not vote in the Presidential election on November 8, and other happenings occur around the world, you would not know it from casually listening to the radio, watching TV, scanning the Internet, talking to acquaintances, or accessing other means of communication. What do you think the inhabitants of planets in far-off galaxies think of the Presidential media circus? Great entertainment and puzzlement, for sure.

No matter what else happens, seasons come and go. The season leading to Halloween, Thanksgiving, and December madness beckons. The days grow shorter. A chill in the air warns of summer’s end. Stores publicize hiring plans for the holidays. Restaurants announce seasonal closings or reduced hours. The pharmacy down the block no longer boasts 24/7 hours.

My garden begs for attention. I think about fall plantings and seasonal cuttings, but an action plan remains elusive.

The air conditioner no longer runs. A hot summer generated sky-high electric bills. Low utility bills, at least temporarily, will be welcomed. I can dream about spending those extra dollars.

The best part of the season (for me) is trading skimpy summer clothes for additional coverage.

Organizations ratchet up activities. Meetings and social events begin filling the calendar. New episodes of favorite TV shows air and new shows launch so we can enjoy hours of mindless entertainment.

Fall, or autumn if you prefer, is time to prepare for colder temperatures, more time spent indoors, and longer nights.

It is time to take a favorite blanket out of storage and install it on my comfy chair, bring sweaters and pants out of storage and pack up summer clothes. A shopping trip will stock shelves with items ignored over the summer but soon desired, like hot chocolate and hot cereal. And it is time to think about cooking a luscious-smelling pot of soup.

Summer fades to fall and treads lightly into the cold, dark winter season. Whatever happens after Election Day November 8, winter arrives December 21.

Some things never change. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Where in the World Would I Go?

I usually pass over the countless quizzes confronting me as I peruse Facebook, but one quiz recently caught my eye.

Titled If Trump is Elected, Where Should You Move?, the nineteen questions narrow down the 150+ countries in the world to the one that suits an individual perfectly.

The questions do not cover what I consider important considerations like climate, cost of living, or whether or not a person speaks the language, but include a variety of philosophical and political concerns, such as diversity and government intervention.

Where, according to the survey, should I move should Trump be elected President?

Spain.

Not a bad choice, although I have not visited the country. It is on my bucket list. I speak a little Spanish. I love the food. I can order meals at a restaurant, buy food in a grocery store, and ask directions. I may not understand the directions given, but with immersion in the country and language that might come eventually too.

Hub took the quiz also. The country recommended for him after January, 2017, should Trump be elected President?

Japan.

Hub faces a number of problems with Japan. He does not speak one word of Japanese. The cost of living is high. He is not fond of sitting or lying on the floor, and when he gets down, has trouble getting up again. He likes Japanese food, but doubts he will enjoy the cuisine three meals a day, everyday.

Should we become ex-pats we will not see our families frequently, but mine will probably visit and stay a while, knowing how fond they are of Trump.

If hub moves to Japan and I relocate to Spain, we will not see each other very often since the countries are on opposite sides of the world. Transportation costs would be exorbitant.

I invited him to move to Spain with me, and he is considering the possibility. He may not be as happy as if he ventured to Japan, but we would be together. The cost of living is reasonable and the climate, food, and accommodations probably to our liking.

I am not sure we would sell our house or rent it while gone. Who knows what will happen by 2020? We might want to return home and celebrate, or not, depending how much damage four Trump years does to the country.

Should you wish to contemplate alternative places to live after November 8, the quiz is here.

Meanwhile I am going to begin brushing up on my Spanish.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Our Waitress Scored a D

Hub and I spent a day driving around town on errands, eventually finding ourselves near a favorite eatery. Our stomachs demanded food, and it was lunchtime.

Quickly seated and handed menus, the waitress inquired about drinks. We requested water.

Waiting patiently for our thirst-quencher, we perused the menu and decided what to order. We waited, continued to wait…and waited. Twenty minutes later, no water. Another waitress passed our table and we mentioned our liquid deficit.

Eventually our waitress returned, waterless and breathless, “I was busy serving other customers and then the phone rang. Sorry.” Again we requested water.

About five minutes later two glasses of water materialized. Before the girl disappeared again we ordered lunch.

Our meal showed up in a reasonable period of time. The food was delicious and portions huge, and I could not finish my taco salad. When the waitress stopped by to ask about dessert, we declined and asked for the check.

The bill arrived, not exactly in a timely manner. Hub perused it carefully, a longstanding habit, furrowed his brows and said, “How much was my fish burrito? Do you remember?”

“Nine dollars, I think,” I answered.

“That’s what I thought. It says here $12.”

“Maybe she charged for the platter, and not just the burrito.”

We patiently awaited the waitress’s return, but she was otherwise occupied. Possibly busy in the kitchen, but my guess is on a break, probably behind the building eating or smoking.

One smoke or sandwich later the waitress reappeared, but ignored us. Finally hub caught her eye across the room.

She walked over and hub said, “I thought my meal was $9.”

“Oh, well,” she began, obviously annoyed, “the menu is wrong. The burrito pescado, the fish burrito, is the same price as the shrimp burrito, $11.50. I am supposed to tell customers that, but I forgot to tell you.”

“That is not my problem,” hub states, “the menu says the cost is $9.”

Grabbing the check, she stalks off. A few minutes later she returns and plunks the revised check on the table. Hub inspects it, takes out his wallet and places cash on the table.

Our waitress returns for the last time. A scowl adorning her face, she snatches the cash, turns to leave, grabs two lollipops sitting on the edge of the table and stomps off.

“Did you see that?” I said, amused but also irritated, “I hadn’t noticed the lollipops and don’t want them, but to take them away because she is pissed at us…”

Exiting the restaurant I smile at the waitress, now behind the cash register. She turns her back to me.
 
Not our waitress,
but a close likeness
Hub shakes his head, “She didn’t even redo the bill right. She took $2.50 off the total, but I wasn’t going to argue. And I left a decent tip.”

“She doesn’t deserve it.”

“I know…I don’t think she’s going to last long at the restaurant." We laugh and hurry off, ready to move on. 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Recalling the Introduction of an Iconic Food Product

The food humans devoured throughout history varies depending on where people lived, an area’s plants and animals, climate, and cooking tools. Our cave-sheltered forebears would not recognize most of the items displayed on supermarket shelves today, nor have any idea what to do with the preponderance of kitchen appliances.

More recent ancestors could probably identify much of the food we consume, but our foremothers spent a lot of time preparing meals. Technological innovations introduced over the past couple of hundred years shortcut the process.

Mass-produced fare began appearing during the 19th century…breakfast cereal in 1863…Philadelphia cream cheese and graham crackers in 1872…Heinz ketchup in 1876…peanut butter in 1895…elbow macaroni and ice cream sandwiches in 1900… sliced bread in the 1920s… 

During the first half of the 20th century a stream of firsts made kitchen work easier: the toaster in 1908…electric range in 1910…refrigerators in 1911…Pyrex baking dishes in 1915…electric mixer in 1937… Unfortunately many families could not afford these conveniences during the Depression and war years.  

By the middle of the 20th century America was recovering from years of Depression and war. Soldiers came home, married their sweethearts and begat the baby boomer generation. The economy picked up steam. Women entered the work force in increasing numbers. Manufacturers produced a deluge of products heralding a consumer-buying craze unabated today targeting stressed homemakers.

One momentous event in the development of America’s food lifestyle occurred with the introduction on September 10, 1953, of:

Swanson TV Dinners
Cost: 98 cents ($8.86 in 2016 dollars)

The post-war era also ushered in a golden age of marketers and advertising. Swanson boxed the dinners in a colorful package resembling a TV screen. The first meal consisted of turkey with stuffing, peas and sweet potatoes. TV dinners catapulted to icon status and embodied quintessential Americana. Without the television tie-in, I doubt the product would have caught on and become an American staple so quickly. (Swanson Radio Dinners?)


TV dinners initially seemed revolutionary and wonderful. In hindsight the event was not a positive development for Americans (in my humble opinion), not good for our health, our bodies, our diets. Pre-packaged, mass-produced foods changed (not in good ways) the way we eat, what we eat, when we eat, and how we prepare the food we eat.

Commercial frozen dinners symbolize undesirable aspects of American life: poor food quality, processed food, too much salt, sugar and preservatives, fast foods, express eating, solo dining, minimal family contact and communication…

The quality of the product may have improved in recent years, but there are always better alternatives, unless an individual finds oneself holed up in a frozen, barren wasteland, the only nutrition a supply of mass-produced frozen foods. In that case, my suggestion is eat dessert first. The calories will help keep you warm.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

When Saving Money Costs Money – A Labor Day Tale

What started out as a carefully thought out effort to save money did not turn out that way.

Hub and I spent Labor Day weekend plus a couple of days in south Florida. Family beckoned and Grandsitters R Us heeded the call. My son and his wife were traveling to New York for a wedding.

We flew down Friday afternoon. Son and wife never flew to New York, but we fulfilled our grandsitting duties.

And spent oodles of money.

Hermine, a storm threatening the east coast, disrupted plans. Precarious predictions worried the parents, thinking their plane might be delayed or cancelled. If successfully arriving in New York, they feared being stranded. They scrapped the trip.

However, not allowing a grandsitting opportunity to pass, the couple booked an upscale beach resort closer to home.

Hub and I survived the Labor Day weekend. Laboring.

We scheduled our flight home for Wednesday evening, two days after Labor Day, because it was cheap. (Round trip for two = $176, taxes and tight seats-nothing else-included.)

Cheap is good.

Usually.

We could have stayed with the kids the extra two days. They are all in school, the youngest a kindergartener. What would Grandma and Grandpa do all day?

I suggested a mini-vacation. Before hub overthought the idea I found a hotel in Fort Lauderdale at a great rate that included breakfast. We left Tuesday morning after saying goodbyes as the kids left for school.

One water taxi stop was
Margaritaville, with enough time
for a rest room detour and to
purchase a frozen Margarita
for our excursion.
Hub was happy!

 We spent a day languishing on a water taxi plying the waters around the city seeing the sights – mainly multi-million dollar homes and mega-million dollar yachts.

Wednesday morning we slept late, then lingered over breakfast. We walked along the Riverfront and toured the historical museum. I wanted to stroll along Las Olas Boulevard, an upscale shopping and restaurant district, but our meandering did not last long, the heat forcing us into air-conditioned indoor splendor the rest of the day.

The upshot of our minivacation vs. early flight home-

We saved a couple of hundred dollars on airfare flying home Wednesday night rather than anytime Tuesday or early Wednesday.

We spent more (quite a bit more) on the hotel, water taxi, museum admissions, and meals.

I think of our minivacation as a way of supporting the economy. Spirit Air receives plenty of our money. By spreading the cash around–hotel, restaurants, attractions–more people received the benefit of our largesse.

 
We spotted iguana along the riverfront.
Unfortunately next trip hub insists we purchase tickets whatever the price and fly home when our visit is over, or stay the additional time–for free–with family. 
Flip Flops, ideal spot along the intercoastal waterway
for lunch, another water taxi stop.

Friday, September 2, 2016

When Fiction Becomes Reality

Confession time: Castle is one of my favorite shows. Or was. Following eight seasons the final episode aired recently. In the future I must satisfy my detective obsession with reruns.

 In the TV series Richard Castle is a mystery writer and consultant with the New York City police department. He works closely with a detective (a fictional character played by a real actress - Stana Katic - portraying a NYPD detective). Eventually the two become a romantic item…

The show is fiction.

Richard Castle is a fictional character: a mystery novel writer.

Straightforward enough.

But things quickly get confusing.

Visit Amazon or walk into your nearest bookstore and a novel – a real book - written by Richard Castle can be purchased. The writer of these novels is not the Richard Castle seen on TV.

The actor portraying the character Richard Castle is Nathan Fillion. The real novels – real because they are actual books – are written by another person using the pseudonym Richard Castle.

So there is:

Richard Castle - fictional character,
Nathan Fillion - actor portraying Richard Castle on TV and elsewhere, and
Unknown writer or writers – author(s) of books using Richard Castle pseudonym.

The actor Nathan Fillion
The actor Nathan Fillion appears as Richard Castle on the novel’s book jackets. He is pictured on the official website. He participates in book signings - genuine book signings, not faux ones portrayed on the TV series.

Who writes the books? No idea. No one knows. I researched the question but came up empty and will not speculate because everyone has a different theory.

Richard Castle’s first faux mystery Heat Wave was published as a hardcover book in 2009. The book debuted at # 26 on the New York Times Best Seller List and eventually moved up to # 6. There are two series of books attributed to the writer Richard Castle: Derrick Storm novels and Nikki Heat mysteries, as well as a number of graphic novels.



Perplexed? I certainly am.

I have not purchased any Richard Castle books or borrowed Richard Castle books from the library or downloaded a Richard Castle book on Kindle. I do not plan on reading any of the mysteries. My bookshelf already overflows with tomes awaiting my eager hands.

Summarizing: A TV character transforms into a real author writing books first introduced on the fictional TV show. The actor, employing his character's guise, is pictured on the books’ jackets and does book signings and other book promotions. No one knows who writes the books. The author remains anonymous.

The world gets more confusing every day…

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Kayaking Lake Willoughby’s Pristine Waters

You take the lake. I look and look at it.
I see it's a fair, pretty sheet of water…
so long and narrow,
Like a deep piece of some old running river
Cut short off at both ends. It lies five miles
Straight away through the mountain notch…
I see it's a fair, pretty sheet of water,
Our Willoughby!
-       From Servant to Servants by Robert Frost

Robert Frost wrote about Lake Willoughby on a camping trip with his family in 1909. The lake, carved from glaciers and over 320 feet deep, became a tourist destination during the late 19th century. Although far from a large city, folks heard about the clear waters, variety of fish and wildlife, surrounding mountains and lush greenery, and found the place perfect for a summer holiday.

Thirteen seniors and three guides entered the peaceful waters of Lake Willoughby one warm August morning 107 years after Frost wrote his poem. The kayakers headed across the lake, one rhythmic paddle after another increasing the distance between shore and lake waters. Soon the wind strengthened, helping drive the kayaks forward.

I imagined the lake little changed since Robert Frost eyed its waters. One room cabins and two and three room bungalows, some deteriorating and others well-maintained, line the shores. Occasionally a McMansion could be spotted amidst the trees, but the sizeable residences do not mar the natural landscape (yet).

The kayaks spread across the lake as seasoned kayakers and athletic individuals dashed forward. Slower paddlers (including me) took time to marvel at the stone cliffs, observe boats docked along the shore waiting to set sail as owners, individuals not as lucky as we were, worked in far flung cities. We waved and exchanged greetings at the few fishermen and boaters passing by.

It was a perfect last day of our Road Scholar kayak adventure.


Halfway across the lake the distant beach appeared, spurring tired paddlers on. Lunch beckoned, and sore muscles required rest. After wolfing down sandwiches, our dedicated leader wanted everyone back in the water to practice safety and recovery techniques. Unfortunately the unenthusiastic response from the group forced him to abandon the idea. Instead we loaded kayaks and equipment and headed for our next destination – an ice cream shack.

After our guide spent the time on the way detailing the shop's specialties, our appetites whetted and stomachs eager for a treat, we pulled into the store’s parking lot.

A hand-written sign on the window greeted us, ”Sorry. Closed. Opening tomorrow 11:30 a.m.”

Disappointed but not ready to give up on ice cream, our van stopped at a grocery store to stock up on Coaticook ice cream (a Quebec-made product) and cones. Everyone finally enjoyed the treat on the porch of our lodge.

No guilt. Following four days of kayaking, we deserved it! 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Straddling the Border Between Two Countries

 
We entered Canada from a New York State country road. The Canadian border patrol manned (or in our case womaned) a command post the size of a toll booth. We approached, handed the woman our passports, then answered a few questions.

Our Destination? Glen Sutton.
How long will you be staying? One week.
Any alcohol, drugs or firearms? No (and if there were, would we declare them?).
OK. She returned our passports and waved us along.

We entered Quebec, the French-speaking province of Canada. The French presence in the country dates to the 1500s. The Catholic Church maintained French influence for centuries, and now secular forces, including the language police (no kidding), reinforce French Canadian culture.

Hub and I enjoyed a five day kayak adventure, a Road Scholar program. Plying the calm and not-so-calm waters of Quebec and northern Vermont (the American state), muscles rarely used woke up and screamed "Ouch!"  However the exercise did not compensate for the numerous calories consumed savoring homemade gourmet dinners and waist-expanding desserts. 

In the evenings we listened to a series of lectures on heart health, Quebec history, and climate change. If totally honest I must admit I tried very hard to listen, but did not always succeed. Exhausted following hours of exercise in the great outdoors, it was difficult staying awake. In a room furnished with comfortable upholstered chairs and couches, the first night I settled in a chair directly in front of the speaker. I could not help myself as my head fell and eyes closed. My head soon abruptly shot up and eyes opened, but only temporarily. The scenario repeated throughout the hour and a half program. The following evenings I did not repeat my mistake, sitting in a dark corner in the back of the room.

When not on the water we engaged in conversation with locals. 

What do Canadians think of us?

My mind attempted to find a term explaining foreigners' views of American politics today, and finally discovered an appropriate term: meshuganah, a Yiddish word. Translation: a bit crazy, maybe more than a little bit crazy, but definitely meaning what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-you-people.

I hope Canada does not build a wall to keep Americans out. Canadians joke about the prospect but actually welcome immigrants. A few thousand Americans (minus their guns and Trump paraphernalia) would probably be granted asylum. Of course gun-toting Trump supporters wearing "Make America Great Again" hats are not the ones who might be heading north...

The American dollar is strong against the Canadian dollar, a $10 purchase in Canada costing Americans only $7. A bargain! If considering a trip north, go soon! No one can predict the value of future dollars. But beware, sales taxes are steep.

Travel musters thoughts of additional adventures, and as my muscles recover from kayaking I consider future trips. It is better than thinking about returning home and cooking and cleaning and doing all the laundry generated during the week...