May Day: All Fun, No Distress

How do you celebrate May Day? Do you dance around a pole, intertwining streamers?  Or do you scratch your head and say “What the hell is May Day?”  Wikipedia says May 1st is International Workers Day, and celebrated in the Northern Hemisphere as a spring festival and (usually) a public holiday.

Glidden's Presbyterian Church features a beautiful round stained glass window.
Some things remain the same.

In the little town of Glidden, Iowa (at least in the 1960’s), May Day wasn’t celebrated by pole dancing (Hey, not that kind of pole dancing!) or days off from school.  Instead, we would make several little May baskets, and deliver them around town to our friends’ houses.

Our May baskets were much less skillfully made than those you’ll find with a Google image search.  They were made from colored construction paper, held together with a few staples or glue.   We then filled them with small candies and cheap little trinkets, and delivered tem to our friends after school.  You know, since it wasn’t a public holiday.  😉

But wait!  There’s more!
Glidder-Ralston Community School houses K-12.
Some things change a little.

In our little world, the idea was to place the basket at the friend’s door, knock or ring the doorbell, then run like crazy to the edge of the home’s property.  (Usually this meant the street.)  Meanwhile, said friend would be waiting inside for said knock or bell, and when heard would give chase to the basket bearer.  If you got caught, you got kissed.  I rarely made it to safety, but not for lack of trying.

Looking back now, I wonder why in the world would we run from a kiss?  Perhaps the more savvy girls didn’t run from the cool boys.  But I was much too shy and not that smart.

Glidden's pool is now an aquatic park.
Some things change a lot!

I thought everyone practiced this little rite of spring, but when I headed off to the University of Iowa, none of my friends had heard of it.  Perhaps it was a tradition limited to western Iowa.  Since it wasn’t known in eastern Iowa, I didn’t hold out hope for my Michigan State graduate school buddies.  As my horizons broadened to include the Navy and the world, I eventually gave up asking.

I haven’t been back to my home town in many years and wonder if they still celebrate May Day in the same manner. My guess, or at least my hope, is yes, since many of my school mates still live there, and have hopefully passed the tradition on to their children and grandchildren.

[All photos from City of Glidden’s web siteFrom the top, the First Presbyterian Church, Glidden Ralston Community School (serving grades K-12) and the  “new” aquatic center.  Each of them has a story to tell.]

The 3-Pajama Week

Subtitle:  Stupid Weather

Two trees with pink blossoms are in bloom.
A sign of Spring: My favorite (dying) trees have begun to bloom.

Spring finally broke through last week.  In honor of this long-awaited occasion, I got a pedicure (it’s sandal season!) and pulled out my spring pajamas.  I have pajamas for every season.  Winter is flannel/heavy-weight cotton, autumn is lighter cotton, summer is shorties, and spring is Capri-length light-weight cotton.

After a couple nights with the spring pjs, the weather turned quite warm.  Not hot, so much, but warm enough to turn on the air-conditioning.  Except our air-conditioning can’t be turned on until May, what with Alexandria city law stating multiple-family dwellings can’t turn off the heat until April 30.  (Our heat and a/c are supplied by the same system, so we have to turn one off before turning on the other.)  All that exposition is to say the day found me quite lethargic. The night found me pulling out the summer (shortie) pjs.

Just two days later, we had freeze warnings!  Out came the long jammies.  And they’re still out.  :/

Almost every April we have a hot spell (temperatures in the 90s) without air-conditioning.  But this spring is pure whack-a-doodle.  I don’t think it’s ever been so fickle as to require three different pajamas in the space of five days.

Make up your mind, Mother Nature!

Life’s Certainties

  1. Death
  2. Taxes
Income taxes are due on April 15.
One of life’s certainties.

This past week I had my taxes done.  Retirement has thrown my tax habits into chaos.  I tried doing them myself, but got lost when asked for the Fair Market Value (FMV) of my pension.  Is there an FMV for a pension?  I understand the FMV of my retirement investments, but a pension?  What’s the value of that?  All things considered (including a printer that’s on the fritz), I gave up and made an appointment to have someone more professional do them.

Sadly, my favorite accountant is gone.  Last year she didn’t work because she’d had a mild stroke.  (She wanted to, but her colleagues said no.)  Since my dad worked several years after recovering from a massive stroke, I was hoping she’d be back this year.  But she did the smart thing, retiring and moving out of the area.

Income and withholding information from my working years has not translated well into retirement.  I’d thought my W-4 information transferred from  employment to retirement, but I was only half right.  When my 1099-R arrived last year, it showed no state withholding.  I paid for it big time.  But this year even my federal withholding wasn’t enough.  So now I owe double big time.

The good news is the shock propelled me to change both federal and state withholding.  The bad news is I still need to pay this year’s taxes.  The further bad news is my meager income will now be even more meager than it has been.

What’s a girl on an austere budget to do?   Reinstate the television shopping embargo.  Instead of four weeks though, let’s make it an entire month this time.  Oh heck, this calls for drastic measures—let’s make it two months.

Wish me luck!

The Best Prediction of Snow …

… is when the grocery store parking lot is full and the store is packed with shoppers.  It’s a fact of life in the Washington, DC, metro area.

The Snowstorm Triad of Necessities

Yesterday I did my weekly grocery run, but at a different store than usual.  The store wasn’t particularly busy, but the checkout lines were long.  The very pleasant manager apologized for the backup, using the ol’ “approaching snow storm” excuse.  The real problem was that only two check-out lanes were open.  In fairness, the manager did call for back up, and let me go first when the third lane opened.  (Not because I’d complained, but because I was next in line.)  He then mentioned this was only his fourth day on the job as manager. Yikes!  Talk about a trial by fire!  But he seemed to be taking it all in stride.

While I’d managed to get milk and bread, I’d forgotten the third piece of the snowstorm-supplies triad—toilet paper.  So today I headed back to my regular store for it, and a few other “nice to have” items.  And where did I find this store’s manager?  Restocking the toilet paper!   He said they’d been busy yesterday as well, and of course today was nonstop.  I told him the story of the new manager, and he laughed.  He said at least he had years of experience and the store was actually doing a good job of keeping up with the demand.  (It wasn’t just bravado.  The store really was managing the onslaught well.)

Over several years of living in the Mid-Atlantic region I’ve come to learn that snow predictions are often wrong.  Storms predicted to have several inches turn out to be manageable; it’s the “light snowfall” predictions that slam us.  But this storm is a Nor’easter,  coming in from the coast.  Not only do they tend to be the most severe, they’re usually the most accurately predicted.

I am ready.   My all-wheel drive vehicle has gas, my supply cabinets are full, and in case we lose electricity, all my electronic devices are fully charged.

Sunday Seven: Winter Is Coming

Mega-Fluffies are available at QVC.
Fluffies come in all sorts of colors. Mine is yellow.

It’s snowing here in Northern Virginia.  To celebrate, here are:

Seven Things I Like about Cold Weather

  1. Drinking Cafe Escapes’ Chai Latte.  It’s warm and cinnamony, just perfect for a cold, wintery afternoon.
  2. Snuggling under my Mega Fluffie while watching television.
  3. The bottle of water in my car stays cold.

Yep.  That’s it.  Hurry up, Spring.

Fall Back, Oh Prince

In lieu of a Sunday Seven this week, here are two totally separate, not even related topics.

Daylight Savings Time

Used to be I’d bitch every time we changed to or from Daylight Savings Time.  The reason for the bitching was the extra work I had to go through resetting my “smart” alarm clock.  It not only remembered the time, even through power outages, but also reset itself automatically for DST.  Except I bought it prior to Congress extending DST by four weeks.  So, instead of never having to reset my clock, I had to reset it four times a year.  Oh the irony.

Two things have changed in recent years to nullify my bitching: 1) I bought a new alarm clock that’s not smart but does have a one-button DST reset; and 2) I retired, so who cares what time I get up?   Still, it’s great to wake up refreshed at a decent hour (especially since I have morning appointments this week).

The British Royal Family

Why are we Americans so enthralled with the Royal Family?  Isn’t that what we rebelled against 230-odd years ago?  I’m just curious, since I too have my share of fascination.

Prince William, Kate Middleton, and Prince George pose for the Christening photo.
Britain’s most photogenic royals

Last night I was watching the Coin Collector show on HSN.  I don’t collect coins, but I find numismatics fascinating.  The most recent coin of interest is the British five-pound coin celebrating the christening of Prince George of Cambridge.  The host proclaimed she’s an “Anglophile nerd,” and was excited that Prince George was born on July 22, so close to her birthday of July 25.

I’ve got news for you, sister, close doesn’t count.  Prince William was born on my birthday (my 30th, to be exact—yes, I’m that old!).  And, I was in London at the time.

My friend and I had gone to the theatre (we’ll go with that spelling, since we’re in England).  I remember noticing there was still a bit of twilight in the sky—at 10:30 pm.  As we headed back to our hotel, we asked the cabbie if Diana had had her baby yet.  He said yes, she had a boy.   We did the appropriate oohing and aahing.  Only then did I realize it.  I turned to my friend and said “He was born on my birthday!”  And what’s extra special?  The reason for the twilight—it’s was the longest day of the year.

[Photo credit: Jason Bell/AP, via NY Daily News]

Sunday Seven: Around the Neighborhood

Picture #2 is so pretty I had to feature it.

On Columbus Day, I took my new camera on a stroll around the neighborhood.  It was the first sunny day in about a week.  Here’s what we (my camera and I) found.  (Picture #2 is above.)

  1. A potted plant (it’s a hibiscus, I think) in our pool area.  We filled in the kiddie pool years ago because it was too expensive to repair.
  2. The hibiscus bloom, taken from the same spot as #1, but with the zoom.  The photo is unretouched, except for size.  It turned out so lovely, it’s featured at the top of the post.
  3. A dry cleaner that delivers!  I took the photo to remember the name and contact info, since I’m always forgetting to take stuff to the dry cleaner’s.
  4. Lulu!  Is she not adorable?  She’s part Yorkie, part chihuahua. She looks it, doesn’t she?  (I also met Pepper, a shih tzu, and her owner, a Coast Guard officer who had the day off; but was too embarassed to ask if I could take Pepper’s picture.)
  5. The Leaning Tower of Alexandria, er, the George Washington Masonic Temple.  The fence between our property and theirs was recently reopened.  There had been a pass-through when I first moved in, but they closed it up years ago.  On my walk, I met a man coming out of the bushes, and voila!, learned the fence had been opened once again.  Yay!
  6. The Masonic Temple, full optical zoom.  Still tilted.  It’s claim to fame is an elevator that runs diagonally.
  7. And once again, this time using the “intelligent” (i.e., digital) zoom.  It too was tilted, but I straightened it (a little) with my graphics software. (Although I have Photoshop, I prefer Paint Shop Pro.  Simpler software for simpler minds.)

When Good Wine Goes Bad

With six you get a wine tote and a 10% discount.

Heat kills kids, pets, and wine.
Danger ahead!

Last Friday I bought six bottles of wine at the grocery store.  I decided to splurge and buy some of the “quite good” wine, not the mediocre stuff I usually get.  Who knew six bottles of wine could weigh so much?  The wine tote was quite heavy.

Since I had several bags of groceries to carry up 3½ flights of stairs, I brought up only two bottles of wine from the car when I got home.

And I proceeded the forget about the rest.

When I brought the wine tote with the remaining four bottles in Saturday afternoon, the bottles were warm.  I figured the glass would cool down and everything would be ok.  The bottles stayed in the tote until last Monday evening, when I took them out for longer term storage.

The extended cork is due to oxidation caused by heat.
Extended cork=not good

Oi!  One bottle of  red bottle and one of white appeared to have been partially opened, as shown in the photo at right.  My immediate thought was that I’d been sold samples,, although the bottles were full.  Then I noticed another white wine had no cork in it at all! That’s I knew I was the culprit, and that I was in trouble. Or would have been, if I had a more discerning palate.

Could these bottles of wine be saved?  Apparently not, according to several web sites.  However, I am a person who can drink vending machine coffee black, so I wasn’t going to let a little oxidized wine scare me away.  Of course, I won’t be serving the wine to anyone else.

I haven’t tried the Kendall-Jackson pictured yet, but the other white wine (the one with the missing cork), didn’t seem to be discolored (another sign of good wine gone bad).  It did have a rather sharp taste, as did the “partially uncorked” Merlot.  But after the first glass, my taste buds were sufficiently dulled so as not to care.

Lesson learned.

[Top photo credit San Diego Wine Storage]

Home Again, Home Again…

…Hippity Hop

NaBloPoMo June 2013 is coming to an end.  Today’s prompt is the last for this month, since Saturday and Sunday fall on a weekend, and are thus saved for “free-writing.”  Of course, I’ve spent most of the month free-writing, so why should it matter?  It doesn’t.

Anyway, heeere’s the prompt:

Are you still living in the town where you were born? Tell us about why you did or didn’t move.

The Dairy Mart in Glidden, IA, is a local landmark
Dairy Mart: hometown landmark and site of my first job. Which I sucked at.

Actually, I never lived in the town where I was born—because the town doesn’t have a hospital.  😉 However, the house in which my family lived when I was born was the same house we lived in when my mother died and my father went into a nursing home some 38 years later.  You’d think it was a magnificent house.  It wasn’t.

Perhaps my preference for staying in one place is inherited.

I’ve thought about returning to my hometown in my golden years, but growing up there really wasn’t a happy experience.  And besides, there’s those damn winters.

To Move, or Not to Move

That is today’s NaBloPoMo question.  (Sort of.)

Do you like to stay in one place for a long period of time, or do you like to move around?

As with nearly all things in life, moving has its ups and downs.  The upside:  you’re forced to pare down your belongings, eliminating those extraneous items that tend to accumulate over the years.  The downside?  Moving is stressful.

For the first 11 years after college, I never spent more the two years in one job, and the longest I stayed in one place was 3½ years.  Moving every few years is a part of military life; and for most of those 11 years, I was in the U.S. Navy.

A picture of snow drifts on my car from the "Snowmageddon" of 2009.
Snowmaggedon: If summer gets too hot, I just gaze at this photo of my car.

All things considered, though, I prefer to stay in one place.  Which is why I’ve lived in the same place for the past 25 years.  It’s a nice, largish condo with two drawbacks.  No elevators (and I live on the top floor), and no covered parking.  (See photo)

Where will I live next?  I’ve thought about moving back to Iowa.  I like the slower pace of life there, but the winters can be a bitch.  Plus my liberal self is torn.  While Iowa recognizes gay marriage (a hot topic currently in the news), it doesn’t recognize the Health Plan for America (i.e., Obama care).  Yeah, that’s right.  I support Obama Care.  Don’t worry, none of my friends do.