Heroes of 2018: Snowplow Operators

wp-image-545725847jpg.jpgWe’re coming up to the end of the year (because I’m sure you haven’t noticed this already), and I want to take these last few weeks to salute some of the unsung heroes of life. First responders and medical personnel and those who serve in the armed forces and all those other amazing dedicated people are deserving of every accolade they receive, and should be entitled to free massages and chocolate fountains for life.

But there are other folks, folks who we don’t think of right away when we talk about those deserving of praise, but who are important nonetheless. And who do I want to celebrate today? Snowplow operators.

I live in central New York state. We get snow. We get LOTS of snow. It slows us down at time, no doubt about it, but it rarely stops us completely, and snowplow operators are a huge reason for that. No matter the hour of the day (or, usually, the night), they are out there, plowing and salting and sanding and carving a path through the snowy wilderness for those who must be on the road. Weekends, holidays, it doesn’t matter. They are out there, doing their dangedest to tame Mother Nature just a tad.

And then there are the independent plowers – the ones who tackle residential driveways.

In October of our first year in our current house, there came a knock at our door early one Saturday morning. It was a guy named Jim, tall and gangling, with a wild shock of dark blonde hair. He told us that he had plowed the driveway for the previous owner, and would be happy to continue for us.

Now, let me tell you a few things about our driveway:

  • it’s a steep hill
  • with a sharp curve as you climb
  • and a rock wall on your left
  • and a garage on your right.

(Oh, and there are low-hanging power lines when you get close to the house, but those only present a challenge to appliance delivery people and anyone who must dump a load of mulch in the spring.)

Get the idea? Basically, we have the driveway from hell. But Jim didn’t care. He just showed up, morning after snowy morning, waving through the window and entertaining the cats do no end as he did his snowplow ballet. Many were the winter mornings when I woke to the sound of the plow dropping onto the snow-covered driveway and the low roar of his truck gunning up the hill.

It was a most wonderful sound.

In November, we realized Jim hadn’t stopped by for his usual early-winter check in. But we had been away for the first weekend of the month, and we thought we had simply missed him.

The next weekend, we got hit. Schools were closed. The plows were out in full force.

But no Jim.

We tried calling, but someone else had his number.

We called a couple of other plow people, looking for someone new. People came, took one look at our driveway, and shook their heads.

Finally, my husband happened to mention to one of the potential plowguys that we used to work with Jim, but we couldn’t track him down.

“No surprise,” came the reply. “He died back in the spring.”

We’re still hunting for a new plow operator. Meanwhile, we’re shoveling. With every person who backs away from our driveway in terror, with every load of snow I pitch over to the side, I think of Jim, and his goofy smile, and his willingness to take on what no one else wants to handle.

Godspeed, Jim. I raise my snow-encrusted shovel in your honor.





Gobble Gobble!

fruit turkeyWith American Thanksgiving racing toward us at breakneck speed (next week? SERIOUSLY???), I wanted to share this fun and easy nibbler turkey. It’s a great little snack for those hours of parade watching, while the smell of the real turkey is scenting the air and driving everyone mad with hunger. Plus there are vegetables! So it means you get them out of the way early, leaving your mealtime free for potatoes and stuffing and gravy!

(Fellow Canucks, save this for next October. I’ll try to remind you in time next year 🙂 )

As you can see, it’s pretty self explanatory. Here’s what you need:

  • 1 honeydew melon (cantaloupe would also work)
  • 1 pear, preferably Bosc
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 orange pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • green grapes (red would also work, I think)
  • chunks of any firm cheese (I might leave those out this year and use orange segments or pineapple chunks instead)
  • 2 raisins
  • bamboo shish kebob skewers
  • toothpicks

Cut a small slice off the least attractive side of the melon so it will sit flat on a plate.

Cut the peppers in half, seed them, and cut into lengthwise strips. Use toothpicks to attach to the melon in two rows, alternating colors.

Alternate the grapes and cheese (orange/pineapple) onto bamboo skewers. Stick them into the melon behind the rows of peppers.

Use toothpicks and/or broken skewers to attach the pear to the “front” of the melon. Use raisins for eyes (attach with a broken toothpick), a triangular piece of cheese or yellow pepper for the beak, and a strip of res pepper for the wattle.

Snap a photo, serve, and enjoy.

Catching Up with Casa Kitty

Caesar PotterIt’s been a while since I posted about of life here at Casa Kitty – probably because we’ve been too busy doing life to write about it!

October was one of those months when I was away almost as much as I was home. Things kicked off with a visit to Boston for Columbus Day/Canadian Thanksgiving. We saw two out of three sons, one daughter-in-law, two aunts, one uncle, and one mother-in-law. I was assigned to make tiny dessert treats for our turkey feast, so I went for tiny pumpkin cheesecake trifles. I made mine with gingersnap crumbs and dang, they were a huge hit. cups If you’re looking for something festive and easy for the upcoming holidays, you could do far worse. (I ordered these cute little cups from Amazon. Worked perfectly.)

After Boston it was time for a much-needed writing retreat in Erie PA. The highlight of the trip (other than coming up with a new book idea, watching great movies, and, oh yeah, spending time with friends) was that I found a Tim Horton’s just ten minutes from the cabin where we stay! Can you say Timmies Run? I knew you could. And you can bet that I did!

After Erie it was time for one of those highlights of aging life: a colonoscopy. I know. But folks, they really aren’t that bad. Sure, the prep is No Fun At All, but it all happens in the comfort of your own home, and it’s a great excuse to lounge on the sofa and look pathetic. If you’re of an age where you should have one, and you’ve been avoiding it, please don’t delay. It’s a lot easier than, say, a root canal, and it can save your life.

There. PSA accomplished. 🙂

There was yet another trip in October, back to Massachusetts, though this time we stayed in the western part of the state. HRH is a senior this year, which means we have been visiting All The Schools and doing All The Paperwork and making All The Decisions. This trip included two schools,  one shadow day, one overnight visit, and two interviews. Both schools made her final list, and – oh happy day – all of her applications are now in! bravo congratulationsWe closed out the month, as we do all Octobers, with Halloween and a visit to our old neighborhood, where the trick-or-treating is far easier than it is here in the Casa Kitty skeletonarea. We walked the old streets and caught up with old friends and ended the month on a total sugar/joy rush. Which is a good thing indeed, because you know what happens next: a total holiday blitz for the next two months!

October Read: Hamster for the Win

Little Red Rodent HoodThe best book I read this month was about a hamster.

I adore the middle grade Hamster Princess stories about Harriet Hamsterbone, who is most definitely NOT your average princess.

  • She’s a hamster
  • She used to be invincible
  • She rides a quail
  • She has no patience for fancy balls, fancy clothes, or fancy people (although she puts up with her parents’ need for all of them, since they are, after all, the King and Queen)
  • She is logical, mathematical, loyal, exceptionally brave (even though she lost her invincibility), and incredibly resourceful
  • Adventure is her middle name
  • And she is just plain fun

Officially, I pre-order these books the moment they’re available to share them with my youngest daughter. The reality is that they’re for me. I’m the one who parks on the sofa and reads them in one sitting.

Little Red Rodent Hood had everything I look for in a Harriet book: humor, cleverness, exasperated friends, were-hamsters, and a fabulous role model for my kid to emulate. Highly recommended.

It’s Little Red Riding Hood as you’ve never seen her before in this funny, feminist spin on the fairy tale, from award-winning author Ursula Vernon

Most monsters know better than to mess with Princess Harriet Hamsterbone. She’s a fearsome warrior, an accomplished jouster, and is so convincing that she once converted a beastly Ogrecat to vegetarianism. So why would a pack of weasel-wolf monsters come to her for help? Well, there’s something downright spooky going on in the forest where they live, and it all centers around a mysterious girl in a red cape. No one knows better than Harriet that little girls aren’t always sweet. Luckily there’s no problem too big or bad for this princess to solve.

In this sixth installment of her whip-smart Hamster Princess series, Ursula Vernon once again upends fairy tale tropes and subverts gender stereotypes to brilliant effect. This is a “Once Upon a Time” like you’ve never seen before.


That New Book Smell

blurred book book pages literature

Photo by Caio Resende on Pexels.com

First, apologies. It didn’t take much time working under my new blogging/social media schedule to realize that I just plain didn’t have that much to say. I’ve reevaluated my plan, and now have something far more manageable in mind.

Second: I’m starting a new book! This has been a long time coming. I handed in my last pieces of my last contracted work just about this time last year, and then –

What’s that, you say? A year already? How did that happen?

Let me elucidate.

  • First, I took some time to do absolutely nothing but home and family work.
  • Then the holidays were upon us.
  • Then it was the new year, and I started a new book with a new plan.
  • Then I realized that book wasn’t going to work.
  • So I spent time developing another book, with all different characters and an abundance of variations (it’s contemporary! It’s magical realism! It involves a dual timeline!)
  • I finally got a clue, admitted that this wasn’t working, and – wait for it – returned to Book 1.
  • Which I worked at diligently.
  • Then realized it needed more thought, which I did
  • Until summer vacation meant that all my brain power went to maintaining my sanity.
  • Then I dove back into it once school started in September.
  • I wrote words.
  • About 23,000 of them, to be precise.
  • I finally felt ready to share some of it with my agent.
  • She told me, as directly but gently as possible, that it wasn’t working.
  • Um …. Yeah.
  • I spent a few days communing with chocolate.
  • I came up with another idea.
  • My agent said, um, let me show you some examples.
  • I worked up four very basic premises.
  • I sent them to my agent.
  • We talked. She gave me some insights into each of them.
  • I went on a writing retreat weekend, planning to spend a few hours on each premise and then make my decision.
  • I started in on one. And then thought, what if I did this with it? And then what if this happened? And what if ….
  • That took the whole first day.
  • I tried to work on the others on the second day, but they just weren’t doing it.
  • I typed up what I had for Premise #1 (on my phone, because that’s the only way we can access email at this retreat) and sent it to my long-suffering agent.
  • She sent back the magic words:  Run with it.

Honestly, folks, I’ve never been much of a runner. But I think I’m ready to try it now 😊

Everybody (Else) Is Working For The Weekend

SOmeday reAading weekend relaxingEvery Friday (I think), I get an email from Amazon telling me what’s new on Prime that I can watch on the weekend. I also get updates from a couple of local independent theaters letting me know what’s playing on their screens. Oh, and usually somewhere around Wednesday, my husband will start talking about what we’re going to do on the weekend.

All I can think is, obviously I am way out of touch with the rest of the world. Because my weekends stopped being relaxing around October of 1989, which just so happens to be when my first kid was born. Coincidence? I’ll let you decide.

Oh, I do love that joyful feeling of crawling into bed on Friday night without setting the alarm. Weekend meals are a little more relaxed as well – a night of pizza, a lot of leftovers – so that’s a bonus.

But other than that, my weekends are full. For example, here’s what’s on the schedule this coming Saturday and Sunday:

  • selling pumpkins at my church’s annual sale
  • dance lesson for eldest daughter
  • voice lesson for eldest daughter
  • groceries
  • ghost walk through my village (Seriously excited about that one)
  • help eldest daughter make a spreadsheet for the schools she’s applying to
  • prep for/teach Sunday School
  • attend church
  • help youngest daughter with homework
  • and the usual cooking, cleaning, etc that goes into life

To top it off, my husband is on call beginning Friday night. So at any point, night or day, I’ll need to be ready to shift my plans to accommodate him needing to run to a nearby courthouse and represent someone.

The thing is, everyone’s weekends seem like this, at least among my friends. I don’t know anyone who is able to binge watch something on Netflix, or who can plan on more than a couple of hours of fun activities over the weekend. As for flopping down on the sofa with a good book? I try. I do. And if I’m lucky, I’ll manage more than five minutes before I am needed by a kid/cat/husband.

I have hope, though. On Wednesday afternoons, when I volunteer at the local library cafe, I hear the senior citizens talking about the books they’ve read and the movies they’ve seen. It’s like a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, reminding me that life has seasons, and I am (still) in the Family First one. And that, most of the time, I’m glad to be here.

But you know, a little preview wouldn’t be amiss 🙂