Saturday, April 24, 2010

There But For Fortune

It's a cool, gray morning that promises to evolve into more of the same in the afternoon and evening.  We find ourselves with the first day of "nothing to do" in the new house, between projects, or waiting for various stars to align to start some.  A very dear friend, an old Peace Corps colleague now living with her partner in Australia, has offered to make us a quilt for the house and deliver it--in person--sometime in 2011.  So one thing that has kept me busy this morning is this website which has dazzled me and taught me in one session more about quilts than I ever imagined existed.  Steve and I have been tasked with choosing a pattern.  Once our choice passes muster with our quilting friend, we will delve into details of color.  This promises to be fascinating, an experience topped off with a visit from Roz and Lib, whom we have not seen since our once-in-a-lifetime visit to Australia and New Zealand in 2005.  It's one more lovely thing to be grateful for.

I also read the online version of the Washington Post, something I try to do fairly regularly, if I can stand yet more reports of the ever deepening chasm between viewpoints in this country, and the lunatics who really do threaten to take over the asylum.  I saw that the IMF has prescribed a remedy for our current international economic ills:  somehow getting the "developed world" to scale back its consumption and, concomitantly, its relatively luxe way of life.  The dollar must lower in value or the Chinese must raise the value of their currency.  Either way, it would mean that Steve and I may no longer be able to go to Ollie's overstock outlet and pay cents on the dollar for a dining room rug, say, or buy cheap nuts and bolts for our new deck.  Such prospects bring home for me one more time how incredibly lucky we have been in so many ways, for so many years.  When I say "we" I speak specifically of Steve and me, but the good luck has applied to countless of our contemporaries who happened to find themselves making their lives in Washington, DC, and other big cities, during the past few decades, riding the gravy train of good salaries that higher education could command, and not really too long ago.  In Steve's and my immediate case, we decided what had to come next, got out while the getting was good, and had the means to build, literally, our future.  Yes, we were smart enough to make plans.  But we were just plain lucky to be able to realize them.

There is one gift from my time on the planet that just keeps on giving, and that is my time spent in a poor country with the Peace Corps.  It continues to remind me to take none of the good life I have for granted.  I know that there are people elsewhere who are exactly like me except for the opportunities that are my birthright, and from that difference flow so many others.  "There but for fortune go I" is an old saying I became familiar with when Phil Ochs worked it into a song in the 1960s.  Never a day goes by that I don't remember it, especially now, during such personal good times.  Steve and I may have been smart.  But we had a huge, undeserved and completely accidental leg up along the way.

Friday, April 23, 2010



This one is so easy I can't believe I never ran across it before, and even though a big part of is it is a couple of canned soups, I'm not proud, if it tastes good.  

What I was really looking for was a way to make what my mother called "pork and noodles"--a good name, really, because that's all it was, plus some onion.  Somehow she could boil egg noodles, pork chops and onions together and make it come out a rich, delicious wonder instead of a gluey mess.  It can't have cooked for a very long time--the noodles take only 10 minutes to boil--and the pork not much longer.  Anyway, I never found a recipe for boiling pork and noodles together, but I found a slew of them for baking them, all about this simple.  Pork in North Carolina is a delicious and cheap protein, and I'm looking for more ways to use it.  But you don't have to live in the Tarheel State to enjoy this.  

Just one warning:  give yourself some time.  I takes 1 1/2 hours to cook.

6 country-style pork ribs
salt and pepper to taste
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can French onion soup
8 oz. uncooked egg noodles
1 medium onion, sliced

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

Pat meat dry, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, and brown thoroughly in bottom of a Dutch oven.  Remove meat from pan and set aside.

Mix soups together (do not dilute) and pour into Dutch oven.  Raise heat to a boil and deglaze bottom of Dutch oven with the soups.  

Distribute uncooked noodles evenly through soup mixture, making sure they are submerged, then nestle browned pork among the noodles.  Separate onion slices into rings and distribute evenly over all.

Cover tightly and bake for 1 1/2 hours, until meat is fork tender.  Serve with salad or your choice of vegetable.  Yum!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

All's Well!

Please forgive me for the longer-than-usual hiatus--I'm dropping just a few lines now because some friends have expressed concern that there may be something amiss, especially since I mentioned that pain-in-the-ass lien in the last post.  Really sorry to have given you reason to worry--there's enough of that already in all of our lives....

There is no excuse for my not writing more other than the usual one:  it's busy around here and seems to have become moreso, if that's possible, since we moved into the place.  We settled in and set ourselves up in record time--by the time we'd been here a month it looked like we'd lived here all our lives--but that's because we're both freaks about living out of boxes.   We must have order in whatever passes for home or we go nuts.  And once all was in order on the inside, we started with a vengeance on the outside.  Now we're finally getting to build the deck, and I must say I'm surprising myself at the hammering skills--and general coping skills--I'm developing through the process.  I generally hate construction.  You have to hit things hard and half the time what you plan doesn't pan out the first time--something doesn't fit, or nails miss their mark, or I have to bend this ungainly body into positions I was never meant to assume.  But today I did a pretty good job of some pretty hard stuff involving all of the above:  pieces that didn't fit, nails that didn't go through, and positions I needed aspirin simply to get into. 

The lien: I finally did what I should have done from the beginning.  I called the law office that handled the closing on this land purchase.  They were able to solve the problem literally overnight.  Turned out our purchase enabled the seller to retire his debt, which he did, but nobody bothered to tell the county about it.  We are simply awaiting the paperwork from the seller's lending bank certifying the payoff, which I will then hand carry to the county here to have registered.  We have a month for all this to happen before our loan application would have to be re-done, so we're not worried.

Thanks for your kind wishes and your expressions of solicitude.  If you want to know what's up on a more regular basis, I'm a lot more present on Facebook these days than here, simply because Facebook requires less of a time commitment.  Join me there--I love friends!  And I promise to try to do better here.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Random Notes

I set out on a real post yesterday, and then the phone rang all hell broke loose (I'll explain later) when I was mid-way through it and I had to quit. I looked back at it again just now and realized it was just a meandering recount of all the work we've done since we moved in March 19. Not to minimize, it was a lot of work. The retrieval from Delaware of all the things we had left there meant another whole moving-in, this time of well-loved but admittedly too numerous things we "de-cluttered" from the house in Arlington as we readied it for market, not to mention all the things we had collected for the Delaware trailer itself over the four summers we enjoyed it. In a nutshell, we consolidated three dwellings into this one, and in the process filled thrift stores and giveaway bins with several trips' worth of usable but extraneous stuff, both here and in Delaware. I think we can safely say all the jigsaw pieces that had been scattered around the mid-Atlantic are under one roof. We're moved in, and now we can start on the list of projects that will lend completion to the home. That list is endless, of course, and it's just the things we know about and can plan on! (People have told us that the house looks so complete they'd think we've been living here for years. The truth is, we'd imagined most settings for months and it was a mere case of putting things where we knew they belonged. The hardest part of the job was hauling it all in.)

The hell that broke loose yesterday concerns a home equity line of credit we are applying for. We want to take advantage of our excellent credit ratings and of the fact that we own our house free and clear. The application process, however, has taken on the potential to turn into a nightmare because a very sizable lien was found on the property--a lien that supposedly has existed since 2005 but did not show up in the title search when we made our purchase in March, 2009. Some title company, either the one that did the original search for our purchase or the one working for our lending bank, has made a big mistake. There are myriad things to ponder and worry about in such a situation--my initial inquiries following yesterday's phone call from the bank led me to inexplicable dealings in the next county. All we can do is wait for the thing to play itself out, and that's frustrating for a born "fixer" like me. We should have more details, and maybe a resolution (for good or ill) next week. At least one thing has come out of this: now we know what title insurance is for!

The house may be looking lovely on the inside, (today's photo is of my favorite vista) but outside we're still all dust or mud, depending on the weather. Dwayne, the landscaper, doesn't want to do anything until Joe, the the bulkhead guy, puts in a retaining wall next to the wetlands on the side of the house. Joe can't start on our project until he's done with the job he's on now, and of course last night's soaking rain didn't help matters anywhere heavy machinery is needed. Landscaping will be an ongoing saga. I did plant a couple of trees yesterday where no machines will have to go.

The pollen you have either been reading about or contending with personally over the past few days hit us like a yellow nor'easter. It's record-breaking in these parts (we seem to have arrived here during a time when records were scheduled to be broken)--the air itself was a greenish-yellow fog as we drove on US 17 yesterday. We left the cars outside the garage last night for the express purpose of allowing the rain to relieve them of their dusty burdens. According to local authorities, most of the pollen we're seeing here is from loblolly pines, which the wooded part of our property is full of. We thought the oak and maple pollen in Arlington were bad, but we've never seen anything like this.

We got the boat running yesterday for the first time this season. Took about a half-hour of repeated attempts, but the old bucket of bolts finally kicked into life and purred like a kitten. We saw on our short boat ride that here in early April the Little River is already an obstacle course of crab pots. I bought some crab bait yesterday. Can't wait to start hauling in a few of my own!

Finally: Kat's recent fatal run-in with the copyright police has led me to a decision not to post music anymore, at least not in the MP3 format from my own collection as had been my pleasurable practice heretofore. I will miss the exercise because choosing the songs forced me into my library to refresh my memory of what I have, and gave me many hours of joy as I sampled and chose. But I dare not lose my space on Blogger, and truth to tell I no longer have the hours needed to luxuriate in my music collection. I may decide to go the Youtube route, as many of my friends do.