On The Blackwater

Musing on retirement, writing, puppies, and whatever else strikes my fancy

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Spending my life in 20-year increments: DC, Calif, Maine, & now in the BlueRidge Mountains of VA, where my YoChon, Sadie Mae, has started to blog...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Where were you during the 70's?

I have to admit I can totally relate to Mamma Mia. I was divorced and living in northern CA during the 70's. Nope, I was not a hippie-dippy (although I secretly envied their freedom and passions) because I had 3 kids I was raising alone. That meant I had to get a good job (I did) with all the benefits (my ex was not required to provide health coverage for the children, for example) and would often find myself on the bus going home from work with no idea what I would be fixing for our evening meal. Frugal was my middle name.

I did get a second part-time job, writing restaurant reviews for a local weekly magazine. They paid me AND covered the cost of some incredible meals.

Meanwhile, it was disco time in California. Colors were bright, the music was all the BeeGees and Abba, with John Travolta dancing on those glowing dance floors. It was a wild time; it's a good thing my kids kept me grounded or I might have floated off like so many folks did. I remember taking visitors down to Height-Ashbury in SF where the drug-addled street people were a sad indication of the future. Some never did recover.

Then I met a fellow who was a wonderful dancer, a talented singer...and someone who went to church every Sunday. Huh? An outdoorsman who loved unstructured picnics up in the mountains, a man who came to dinner and stunned my teens by doing the dishes after clearing the table. He built a wooden patio cover on my condo that upset the community group (it was supposed to be a tin Sears cover only) until they drove over to see it and then asked me for the plans so they could build one like it. There were no plans; it was all in his head.

OK, this was meant to explain my fascination with Mamma Mia. It brought back those California days, and meeting the love of my life. Marrying him and moving to northern Maine...well, that's another chapter, and certainly a major culture shock. Trading the freedom of northern California for the cool New England uptight and judgmental focus on life, and working for the Congresswoman, then US Senator, Snowe for 18 years...yes, I've certainly been fortunate.

Now, if I could only be as agile as Meryl Streep was in the movie!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mamma Mia Out Soon!

OK, Santa, I've been a really really good girl. And when I was up in Maine, I took my daughter and 16-year-old grandaughter to see MAMMA MIA. We laughed, we cried, we sang our little hearts out along with everyone else in the theater.

Since then, I've wondered when the DVD would come out, and just how such a major sing-along event could possibly be as much fun in your own living room. We do have a big flat-screen TV, but still...

Then, I saw an ad: 2-disc special edition of Mamma Mia available for a limited time, coming out December 16. Includes new musical number not shown in theaters and a sing-along bonus feature with on-screen lyrics for all 22 musical numbers!

Just in time for Christmas...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving Feast

Yesterday (Sunday) we held our big Thanksgiving feast at church, and filled every table to capacity. Eight members roasted turkeys at home and Hubby carved and carved while other members helped take in the casseroles and salads, cranberry sauce, dressings, gravy. The dessert table groaned, as usual. (My contributions were a large pan of gluten-free cornbread dressing plus a pan of GF walnut brownies for the dessert table.)

I'd been asked to decorate, and got two women to help me on Saturday afternoon, placing silk autumn leaves, sprinkled with gold glitter, on each table along with a scented candle, either gingerbread or pumpkin pie scent. My 'Martha Stewart' moment led me to spray assorted nuts in their shells with gold spray paint, and scatter them at each table center.

The room was all gold and glitter, fall leaves and gourds. The congregation members brought their families, and community members were invited as well. There was lots of laughter, much sharing, a great deal of thanks being expressed...one much-loved couple were happily sharing the news about their first grandchild on-the-way, a grandaughter actually. They cannot wait until March, when they can finally be grandparents.

All of this, and then this morning, on GMA, there was a story that brought me to tears. A farming couple in the midwest had invited local folks to come to their farm and 'glean' the crops that had been left in their fields after their harvest. They arranged transportation by pulling carts out to the fields, supplied plastic bags, and worked hard to make sure everything went well. They expected, at most, 1,000 people. Four thousand came.

The TV reporter filmed one older black gentleman who was delightedly scooping up large onions and putting them into a bag. Looking up, the man grinned and said very enthusiastically: "I just filled some bags with potatoes, and now, look, I'm getting these great onions! I'm gonna make a magnificent pot of potato soup, which is so healthy, and I'll have enough for days!"

The man was just so darned happy, to be given the chance to glean potatoes and onions.

Makes you stop and think. Yes, I have a frozen turkey thawing out for Thursday, and I'll make more cornbread dressing to go with some enormous sweet potatoes that were on sale in our market. There will just be the two of us this year, but I will think about that happy man, with his 'magnificent' potato soup, and give thanks. Somewhere in Matthew 25 it says: "for I was hungry and you gave Me food."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sadie Mae's Blog

Sadie Mae has been after me to let her have her own Blog, so I finally caved. Trouble is, I haven't figured out how to Link her Blog on mine. Everybody ELSE knows how to do this, but not me.

Her blog is at: http://www.SadieMaeHiggins.blogspot.com And she put some pictures of herself there, too.

Any of you techies out there, can you clue me in? I like to keep this puppy happy...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Back to the Fifties

Our Book Club visited the new Mayberry Diner near Smith Mountain Lake yesterday, in conjunction with our having read Richard Russo's Pulitzer-prize winning Empire Falls, about a fellow who runs a small diner in Maine.

The folks who opened this very authentic chrome-trimmed diner feature Mayberry-inspired menu items such as Opie's Omelet, Aunt Bea's stuffed green peppers, and other specials. Their prices are very reasonable, and service was great. I'm told they fill up regularly with the breakfast crowd, opening at 6:30 am. I've been there three times for lunch, timing my arrival for 12:45 when the lunch bunch thins out a bit. (Parking can be a bit tricky but it's OK to park on the grass.)
Their home-made soups are excellent, and I can vouch for their chicken salad sandwich, the large and fresh chef's salad, as well as a scrumptious fresh blackberry cobbler a la mode. My plan is to take Dick there for their cheeseburger (already getting rave reviews!) and a milkshake. Others ordered the onion rings (they come with the cheeseburger) and said they were wonderful.

Where to find the Mayberry Diner? Take Virginia Rt 122 (Booker T. Washington Highway) north towards Smith Mountain Lake, about 20 miles through Westlake Corners and across Hale's Ford Bridge. Just past the Moneta Library on your left, you'll see a strip of pastel-colored buildings on your right. Make a right there, on White House Road. Go just 8/10's of a mile and just past the Moneta Wastewater Treatment Plant road on your left, you will spot the big drive-in movie screen with the shiny Mayberry Diner on your left.

Yes, it can be a bit of a hike, but well worth the drive. Open seven days a week, they have drawn people from all around the area. The drive-in movies show on weekends, but will end for the winter soon. Their phone number is 540-296-1480 to find out what is playing.

Barbershop Singers

I'd forgotten that I took a picture of the Waterfront Four barbershop quartet after their weekend concert. No picture-taking was allowed during the concert itself (except for those to be used for publicity) so I quickly gathered the four guys together, pushed the director, Jane, into the middle, and got a nice shot.

Bearded hubby Dick, their Bass, is second from the left. Dave Bilbro, the Lead, is on the far left, and on Jane's right is Baritone Lane Speck while Dave Wooley, Tenor, is on the right.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Busy, Busy Times

Monday evening, we attended a Marine Corps birthday party that was great fun. Some of the organizers were barbershop singers, and they invited other former Marines. Dick was a helicopter door-gunner during two tours in VietNam, so he was one of their heroes. He also has a Purple Heart from that time, so he is one of MY heroes as well.

The party was held at a new Lake restaurant, and it took us a phone call or two to find it. Listed as "downtown Moneta" it is in fact part of a row of pastel-colored buildings that are being called Downtown Moneta when in actuality they are just several hundred yards off Rt 122 near the Moneta/Smith Mountain Lake branch of the Bedford Library. Actually off White House Road, it appears Casa D'Amici is part of a unique-looking strip mall.

Inside, the dramatic first impression is maintained by a very high wall of pegs to the ceiling, holding a huge collection of wine bottles. Behind that wall, there is another wall of granite with water cascading down. We were at first placed in a separate room but as others arrived, we had to move out into the Waterfall room.

Several of the former Marines brought along photo albums, gear (including knives and even a sword or bayonet, insignia, and name plates) but the conversation was very general and informal. Since most were singers, they sang the Marine Corps song and were applauded by others at the restaurant.

It was a delightful evening, and plans are to have an annual get-together. The restaurant features Italian food, and the offerings were quite good and very reasonable in price. I realize this group of men organized the event, but I hope to impress the guy I'm married to that I'd like to see them add a component...say, each couple bringing along a sack of nonperishable food items to donate to the closest food kitchen. I'd feel less guilty about sipping a glass of Pinot Grigio along with my pasta, beside a wall of water, if I knew we were also contributing towards those in need.

I read today about a couple in California who decided to try to live on a food budget of one dollar a day, for one month. That essentially eliminated any fresh vegetables or fruits, as well as any meats. Life became breakfast oatmeal, or pancakes without syrup, homebaked bread or tortillas, refried beans, homemade macaroni and cheese. Not a very healthy diet, and they were both working long hours, so having to make everything from scratch meant they often ate quite late at night.

How many of us could live on one dollar a day for food? As a single Mom of three back in the day, in California, I recall one of my proudest moments was learning to toast bread slices folded into a muffin tin, then filling them with a cream sauce made with one thawed package of fish and a thawed package of peas and carrots. My kids loved it, and I had other dishes they liked, such as hamburger in a cream sauce spooned over baked potatoes. Of course, we also ate plenty of those little frozen potpies along with a salad.

Sorry, I digress! From elegant restaurant to budget-saving foods. Quite a leap.


Saturday, November 08, 2008

Consciousness Raising Continued~

Obama's win is having a long-lasting effect on me, which is interesting at this stage of my life.

Last night, my husband sang with the Harmeneers Barbershop Chorus; his quartet also sang a number, and it was beautiful to hear those men's voices blending in harmony, all acapello.

After the intermission, they always bring in a quartet from another area. Sometimes, it is a young college-age group with amazing voices. Once it was a Sweet Adelines group of women one of our guys had met in Hawaii, of all places. My favorite visiting quartet was a foursome of NYC firemen who were easy on the ears AND on the eyes.

But last night, for some reason, they brought in a quartet of older fellows dressed as hillbillies and purporting to be from West Virginia. They sang familiar tunes but with coarse lyrics; they were making fun of mountain people. I found it very offensive, particularly at this time when we need to be moving away from putting people down...any people.

I guess I also took it a bit personally; the audience was primarily composed of SML folks who are very well-to-do. But I don't live at the lake; I choose to live in a very small town nearby, one with an historic reputation for stills and bootleg liquor. As the lyrics and accents became even more pronounced, I squirmed in my seat while everyone around me laughed and laughed.

I don't think I've lost my sense of humor. The last song they sang was awful; they were declaring that all Chinese restaurants serve cat meat in their foods. (Ironically, the chorus usually holds their AfterGlow at a Chinese restaurant.) The laughter wasn't as loud after that piece, and they definitely did not get a lot of applause nor did they have an encore.

After the show, we attended the AfterGlow at the lake's country club for a late-night breakfast buffet at which each quartet was featured. Since my puppy, Sadie Mae, had been home alone for hours...well, not exactly home alone, I brought Winchester, our oldest chocolate Lab, into the house to puppy-sit...I excused myself discreetly and left just before the guest quartet performed.

Will I say anything? Yes, even though Dick is no longer on the Board of Directors, I plan to let him know how I felt, and what my reactions were. I may also mention something to their Director, Jane. Admittedly, the theme of this year's show was The South, and the chorus sang pieces from many years ago. Some dealt with slavery. But we had no idea about the songs the guest group would sing...except, of course, for the person or persons who had heard them sing, and then selected them as guests.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Barack Obama won!

I knew history would be made if either presidential candidate won, but was so hopeful that Obama would win, and of course he did. After 25 or more years voting Republican, neither of us could stomach where the R's were taking us (follow the yellow brick road).

Now, we have a family going into the White House that can inspire other families whose male parent doesn't exactly know how to relate to his children. And his children can aspire to be president some day. It's a whole new world.

Only in America could a bi-racial man walk strong through malicious rumors and fraudulant attacks to achieve this highest honor. I did not think I would see this in my lifetime. I remember the drugstore 'sit-ins' during my DC childhood, I recall trying to give my seat on a bus up to an elderly black woman in SC, an act which frightened her terribly as she scrambled towards the back of the bus to grasp a rail and shake as she stood there, afraid of the bus driver's reaction should she have accepted my offer. I was only 10 years old, and hadn't learned there were different laws for blacks and whites, different water fountains, different bathrooms, hotels and motels and restaurants that refused service to anyone whose skin was not lily-white.

That isn't right, I railed at the age of 10. Now, all these years later, Obama smiles softly as his two proud daughters grin up at their dad, and the family walks forward to be greeted by thousands and thousands of cheering people in Chicago.

I'm so proud of my country.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day!

We voted Absentee about two weeks ago; I couldn't envision standing in line when my arthritic knee gives me so much pain. Besides, the Roanoke Times and other sources suggested Virginians vote Absentee to help cut the potential hours-long lines in many areas.

This morning, I saw an overview of massive lines in northern Virginia, for example.

How exciting to be part of this historical day! A woman running for VP; a black man running for President. College students energized and participating, volunteering days and nights, weekends, learning the political campaign routines in ways I haven't seen in way too many years.

It's a bit rainy and cool here today, but nothing that should keep anyone away from voting. I'm making a meatloaf tonight, and mashed potatoes, and we'll be glued to the big-screen TV as the votes are tallied. Maybe we'll even open a nice bottle of wine...