Housewarming Deja Vu   2 comments


Summer has come and gone but it’s left a treasure trove of memories. Remember the MacDonald’s parking lot I showed you where they hold a weekly classic cars show?



Well, it’s just a McDonald’s parking lot again.




And now, my deck is quiet except for the chairs who vie for my attention, each Saturday and Sunday morning, whispering, “sit here sit here ” as I set down my coffee and paper.


You may see an empty deck but if I linger long enough I see the gossamer memories of friends and loved ones sitting, talking, and enjoying each other’s company at my barbecues.

Yes, barbecues, as in four. You see, The House of Mars, being what it is, strains at the seams if I have more than eight people for a sit-down dinner. So rather than repeat the weeks of stress I went through the summer I had  gala BBQ of twenty people, the daily visits to for long term forecasts, all the obsessing over what I’d do if it rained, I broke it up into several small gatherings that can fit around the dining room table of Mother Nature wants it that way. Yes, it can be hectic for a lone hostess but it’s worth it.

perfect hostess

This all reminds me of the meaning of a housewarming party. When I was in the process of getting divorced I dreaded the prospect of moving into the apartment I’d found.  Although I loved the apartment, and looked forward to starting a new life, the idea of entering an empty space where not even the heartbeat of a cat would be there to warm it was a chilling thought. But then I had  a dinner party,  and friends began dropping in, and before  I knew it, the apartment felt as comfy as a robe and bedroom slippers.

So now, while I do not look forward to a long cold winter, at least I won’t be quite so cold as I shovel the snow off the deck. I’ll be warmed by the memories of fifteen years of BBQs and all those who made them possible – human, feline, and canine.


Posted September 16, 2014 by virginiafair in memories

Tagged with , , ,

Yes, You Read it Right   2 comments

Back in the early ’90’s when I was teaching first grade, Fridays were Cooking Day. I had a convection oven in the class room, (don’t  ask  how I got it!) and the class and I would prepare and cook a snack that went along with whatever unit I was teaching. At Halloween time we toasted the pumpkin seeds we’d scraped from our class jack-o-lanterns. When learning fractions we made pizza and sliced it.

When we did a week’s worth of projects centered around the picture book, If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, we made – what else but cookies.


For frosting, there was vanilla icing and red, blue, and yellow food coloring.  I went around with three bottles of food coloring, one each of red, yellow, and blue. The children were given a choice of one drop from each of any two, which they then mixed into the white icing to come up with either orange, green, or purple icing

I like to believe there are about twenty-five 30-year olds walking around San Jose who never forgot their primary and secondary colors.

Not only were these lessons wonderful for demonstrating that food requires preparation of ingredients but were also great hands-on, non-language-based experiences  for a class made up of children whose parents had emigrated from Vietnam, China, Thailand, India, and the Philippines. I was teaching what was called Structured English to children, most of whom were  born here, but while functional in speaking English, it was not their first language, and who often got by faking that they understood more than they actually did.

For the teacher, it was a well-earned “down day” to end the week.,

I bring this up because lately I’ve been hearing how today’s computer-connected, microwave children are disconnected to food production, and really have no idea where fruits and vegetables were before they were frozen or canned. Several urban schools are conducting pilot programs where the children tend a vegetable patch in a rooftop garden or some reclaimed corner of a concrete playground to gain firsthand knowledge.

I’ve also been seeing proof of this need at the checkout of my local supermarket. I can’t count how many times high school and college-aged clerks, when faced with entering the code of  a bunch of fresh spinach, turn to me blank-faced and  ask  “What is this?”

But yesterday  proof stared me in the face as I entered the store. Right there, just  inside the door, in the section that touts local produce, AND MAINTAINED BY PRODUCE CLERKS, I came across this.



That’s right, in case you couldn’t read the sign, here it is again



OMG, how can you work in produce, and not know the difference between a  radish and a beet!!!!!

I would have laughed if  it weren’t so sad.

Now,  if you’ll excuse me , I have to go and take  an anti-fussiness pill.

A Rambling Mind at The Beach   3 comments

Is it really September? While running this morning, I came upon a walker who’s a high school teacher. I asked her when the first day of school was, and she said “Tomorrow.” Having been there and done that as a teacher, I quipped “I’m sorry.” Her response? “It had to happen some day.

I guess I should take that to heart. I succeeded in wringing every moment out of summer but now that it’s labor Day + 2,  I have to agree with her. It happened. Summer’s over, and to add insult to injury, I’d been really banking on spending the whole 3-day weekend at the lake, but @#!&* !! it was a rainy weekend .

It gets worse, today was the type of day I’d been waiting for in vain all summer – 90 degrees and extremely humid. And I had to work! So I’m finding solace remembering a day at Jones Beach a couple of weeks ago ————–

I decided to take a break from baking in the sun so I excused myself from friends to take a solitary walk and be with myself. That was all self needed to ramble on. Being a captive audience I had no choice but to listen.

First thing we came upon was a flag up by the bath house. In some kind of weird synapse intersection my mind said “Where’s the bear?”

I realized a deja vu moment had collided with reality, and for a moment I was seeing  the district office of Oak Grove School District in San Jose where I used to teach, and where the state flag of California was always waving in the breeze.

California state fkag

The shapes of the buildings were similar, as were the colors plus the flat landscape……. then my focus popped into gear and I wondered if the connection wasn’t even more circuitous …



This is the flag that started it all.  It’s flying over the First Aid station.  Put a hyphen in the middle  and you get  Medi-Cal which is California’s state Medicaid program.

(No one ever said my mind works like other people’s – especially where words are involved.)

Now that the California state flag was on my mind I wondered “Where the heck is the  New York state flag – after all, this is a New York State Park”

I set off in search. I decided to walk along the boardwalk. I used to walk on it with my family many moons ago but back then it was a soft wood board walk – as in SPLINTERS,  and it gave off a damp tar-like smell


But between  Superstorm Sandy and medical research, the  nostalgic feel of the boardwalk and the smell live only in my memory. Sandy demolished most of the boardwalk, and creosote, the wood preservative substance responsible for the smell, was found to be cancerous. So the new boardwalk built last year is made of ipe bethebera, a Brazilian hardwood that is so hard, nails will not penetrate. The boards have to be screwed in

(Editorial commeny: Speaking of screwed. Brazilian hardwood? Is New York screwing up the rainforest !)


Deciding to visit the bathroom as long as I was here, I came upon this sign.


Is this term a blast from the past or what? But I guess it says it all, doesn’t it?

With all the free-form rambling my mind was doing, it forgot what it was looking for in the first place, but my eyes find it – the New York State flag!


But then, as I head back to my friends on the beach, my eyes find something I wish they didn’t.

DSCN1618At the bleep bleep beach? what the bleep?


 Since this blog is rated PG, my mind’s ramblings had to be cut by the censor!

Live and Let Live   2 comments

I love everything about summer but number two on my list, after going to the beach, is taking care of my garden. Like any mother I feed my plant babies and shop for them –  delicious foods  like fish emulsion and blood meal. I usually purchase these from Home Depot, but was in a hurry one Saturday and since I was already in Wal-Mart, decided to see if their garden department had what I needed.

Not only did they not have either,  but I was somewhat dismayed to find that the  products that supply plant nutrients were outnumbered by those that promised death –  to insects, weeds, moss – you name it

The Good

The Good

The Bad

The Bad

and the ugly!

and the Ugly!

I don’t know why but it troubled me on a deep fundamental level.  I actually feel sorry for the weeds I pull. Now I was on a quandary,  weighing  the end against the means.  Some people spray, I pull. It’s all the same to the weeds. Thankfully someone pointed out that I was protecting my flowers and vegetable plants because it’s a dog eat dog world, with everything sending down roots and competing for water.

As it turned out I could have left the weeds alone…….  because the deer got there first. I went out to water one morning and suffered instant numbing devastation. I kid you not. I was late getting to work because it took me a while to break out of shock. Was my live and let live attitude being tested?

Remember my tomato  plants and cucumber vines?

Back in July

Back in July

They don’t look like that anymore

In mid-August

In mid-August

The tomatoes fared a bit better,


But they’re soldiering on. Wounded, but still nurturing their tomatoes.


And so are the cucumbers,  bless their little hearts!

See the cuke (pickle) to the right of the stake.

See the cuke (pickle) to the right of the stake.


This called for action, but not too much. The most destructive I could get was repelling them with the noxious odor of musty rotten eggs.


So far it’s worked. But the sixty-four thousand dollar question is……. Are they just waiting for the tomatoes to ripen?

Posted August 27, 2014 by virginiafair in gardening, Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , ,

A Summer Ritual: The Car Show   1 comment

I don’t k now about you but I can’t think of anything that transports me back to my teen summers quicker than old-time rock and roll. Throw in a lot full of classic 50’s cars,  ’60’s era muscle cars, a 70’s coupe or two and I’m  back there before you can say bell bottoms!

That’s why I make it one of my summer rituals to wander through the McDonald’s parking lot at Cortlandt Town Centre when the classic car lover faithful gather on Saturday evenings every summer to set up chairs no one ever sits on, and  show off their babies.



Since the shopping center is  home to Home Depot, A&P, Marshalls, Wal-Mart, Barnes & Noble, a ten theater movieplex, and three  – oh glory,yes three – shoe outlets including my all-time favorite , DSW, chances are I’m there on Saturdays although I only visit t he car show once a summer – when the music speaks to me.

You can hear it from near and far, Some times it’s The Rolling Stones, getting no satisfaction, other times it’s The Monkees, enjoying a Pleasant Valley Sunday, or Smokey Robinson and the Miracles Going to a go-go, or of course, The Beach Boys getting around, or Jan and Dean serenading  their Little GTO (just googled that  and found it’s not Jan & Dean but Ronnie & the Daytonas whom I never heard of –  guess that shows it wasn’t one of my favorites!)

On this particular evening it was Diana Ross and The Supremes pleading Stop in the Name of Love. It had the opposite effect in me. I went – in search of a memory or two

And I found them.

DSCN1547My best friend in eighth grade, Gail Wilson’s father’s car a ’60 Buick (’59?)

DSCN1544My fifth grade teacher, Miss Brook’s ’56 Chevrolet (gray and white)

.DSCN1541The ’66 Dodge (1st car on the left) my Dad trusted me with to ferry my mother and brother back and forth to the beach all summer in  Cape Cod while he stayed in NY to work. Obviously we weren’t a two car family – yet

DSCN1545My brother Jim’s ’73 Dodge when we had become a three car family. It’s the brown car right next to the McDonald’s entrance which is quite appropriate as Jim kept McDonald’s in business!

DSCN1543The ’70’s era Dodge Dart my father bought when we were a four car family and there was no danger of my brothers or I driving his car. Except he didn’t race it so the engine didn’t have all that “stuff”

As Archie & Edith Bunker used to sing, “Those were the Days.”  Cars had their own distinctive look and you didn’t have to look for the name on the front to know what it was. Do you think that 40 years from now, today’s youth will be gathering to show off their Mazdas & Mitsubishis?

I won’t be around to find out, but you know what? I hope they will.

I Should Have Kept My Eye on The Ocean!!!!!   1 comment

I had one of the most bizarre occurences happen to me last Friday, and it’s all eerily related to last week’s blog post,  I Should Have My Eye on the Ocean. It centered around a day at the beach, and I referenced a line from the movie, Kindergarten cop “Kindergarten is like the ocean. Never turn your back on it.”

Let me digress for a moment to explain that I’ve established a pen-pal relationship with another blogger. Her blog is Reflections…by Kathy.  Kathy and I have some  kind of psychic connection. There have been more than one occasion where we post about the same topic. We always comment on each other’s blogs but sometimes a topic deserves a longer conversation and for that we resort to email.

The Kindergarten Cop quote was just such an occasion. I don’t recall her exact words but she  wrote something to the effect, “You must have been thinking of me. I find it hard to take my eye off the ocean — even if I’m reading a book.”

Well, there I was at the beach Friday. Reading my book – not really that close to the surf when…….


See the wet sand. That’s where we were sitting. Notice the rogue wave encompassed nothing else.


I tossed my towel and my bag with camera and phone in it up to the dry sand but my sunglasses got left behind.




but despite a few war wounds, they survivedDSCN1641


OK OK, I’m not dense. I get the message. I’m going to listen to Kathy, and the K-cop. From now on, I’ll read a sentence….check on the ocean…. read a sentence….check on the ocean.


Or maybe I’ll just stick to my local beach.


It’s on a lake.

Posted August 12, 2014 by virginiafair in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , ,

I Should Have My Eye on the Ocean   4 comments

I’m usually terrible at remembering the names of movies and actors, let alone quoting lines. With one exception – Kindergarten Cop! I’m probably the only person who remembers the movie, let alone quotes a line from this Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. Yes, I have, and, warning –  I’m  about to do so again.

Arnold, an undercover cop,  is “teaching” a kindergarten class as part of his cover. When he turns his attention to something or other (see what I mean about remembering movies)  the kids, as Kindergarteners are wont to do, see their chance and have a free for all worthy of the food fight scene in Animal House - but without the food.

Another teacher who happens to be his love interest comes in and instantly restores order, than leaves him with the parting words. “Kindergarten is like the ocean. Never turn your back on it.”


Oh how I love this line ! I was a kindergarten teacher at the time the movie came out, and believe me, no truer words were ever spoken.  Maybe I’ll have it engraved on my tombstone!

What brought the line to mind? The ocean, of course. I was strolling along the beach and realized the power of  the ocean.


Fortunately she’d harnessed it and put it to good use – as a re-decorator.

See this continuous ridge of sand along the beach?


It wasn’t there last year.


And how about these stones?


Have you ever seen anything so perfect and smooth?

I wasn’t the only one taking in the serenity,

DSCN1534So were the year round residents.


You’ll notice the sea gulls are not turning their back on the ocean. I wish I hadn’t either because when I did, I saw a sight that stopped me dead in my tracks. WTF is that? I asked.


Now why would anyone want to come to the beach and wall themselves off from Mother Nature’s marvelous creations


And OMG,  – another one!


Where do they sell them? And Why? Why come to the beach if you’re going to sit surrounded by a striped fence? Did they hate the wind? Blowing sand? Want privacy?

I don’t know, I give up.   It wasn’t worth getting so worked up over. Besides it was none of my business.  As I gave them one last look, another quote came to mind and I sent the thought it conveyed to  the enveloped beachgoers.

It was  my dad’s old stand-by  from the 60’s when the teenaged me would ask him

Daddy do you like my new hairstyle?


Daddy, look at these great bell  bottoms!”


Daddy, look at this mini-skirt I just bought.”

He’d give me his full attention, look carefully, and reply

As  long as it makes you happy, that’s all the matters.





Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 65 other followers