And climb the stairs to the beach...

Friday, October 25, 2013

Things That go Bump in the Night

I was dreaming about ghosts. I am not clear on where I was, but it was dark, really dark. There was a black shadow figure in the room and it was creeping up into some body's bed, threatening to overtake the person sleeping in the bed and possess her. I am not sure who the person was, and I know I awoke before I found out. But I know I was probably dreaming about this particular situation because The Dead Files was the last show I had watched before going to sleep last night. As the shadowy figure approached the sleeping woman in her bed, suddenly the setting changed from a bedroom to a large hall and I heard what sounded like a crystal chandelier crashing down on a tile floor.

It was one of those times when I couldn't  be certain what was real and what was a dream. But in a split second I realized the ghosts might have been part of the dream, but the sound of the chandelier crashing to the ground was real and it had awakened me and Ed in the most frightening way.

"What was that?" I said to Ed, in a loud whisper. "I don't know!" We both sat up and together, trying to break through the heavy veil of sleep without turning on the light. We both threw off the covers swung out of the bed on our respective sides, meeting at the foot of the bed, pausing before heading toward the horrifying sound. I followed closely behind Ed, out the bedroom door and stepped into the living room to investigate. It was unusually dark last night. There was no moon. The lights outside on the building next door were not on for some reason, and we could see nothing. 

My mind was going a mile a minute in those seconds it took to get to the living room. We have a glass front door and I wondered if someone had smashed their way in! We also have sliders on the lanai, leading into the bedroom and into the living room. Maybe something came through the sliders? Bears have been in the area quite frequently these days. In fact, one  sleepy black bear had ripped through the screen on some one's lanai in a neighboring community and taken a long afternoon nap. Could it be a bear? Would we encounter a man or beast or perhaps some kind of ghostly apparition would be to blame.
Bear recently snoozing on a neighboring lanai

The noise had been really loud, enough to wake Ed, the soundest of sleepers. But now, everything was quiet, except for the ceiling fan making a quite tic, tic, tic and some soft and unfamiliar sounds of a crackling and popping noise that sounded like it was coming from the living room. It almost sounded like a small fire burning, or maybe water dripping.
A view of our living room. Coffee table in center of room.

As I stepped from the bedroom carpet onto what should have been the smooth tile floor of the living room, I felt small, sharp chunks of broken glass underfoot. "Ed!" I said. "It's here. Right here!" "What is it?" Ed asked me. "I don't know. Glass I think! It's right under my foot!" I couldn't figure out how Ed had gotten past me without feeling the same thing that had stopped me in my tracks. I was right next to the light switch and as I turned it on and our eyes slowly adjusted to the light, we didn't see anything out of place at first. Then, as the room came into focus, I saw thousands of tiny chunks of glass all around where I was standing. I looked up to see if something had fallen from the ceiling above me, but saw nothing. Then, I looked over toward the living room, and said "Oh, my God look at that!" Pointing in the middle of the living room. Ed said "Look at what?" I pointed again, and shouted "Right there!" But it was such a strange thing, and we had just been roused out of a sound sleep, it simply wasn't registering with Ed. "The coffee table!" I yelled. "Look at the coffee table!"

There in the middle of the living room, was our wooden coffee table. The thick round 35" glass top that had been resting on the wood base had exploded into thousands of tiny chunks and shards of glass. The small silk flower in a glass vase was sitting in the middle of the table, just where I had left it, but now it was ankle deep in glass shards. The soft crackling and popping was coming from these shards on the table.

A close up of the table from the furniture store.
We looked up, expecting to see something that might have fallen from the ceiling on to the table, but there was nothing. About half of these pieces were in a pile on the table itself, but there was an equal amount of glass shrapnel that had been propelled everywhere in a fifteen to twenty foot circle radiating out from the table and extending from the bedroom door across the living room, into the dining room and out toward the front door. There was no explanation for it. It had just spontaneously exploded for no reason at all.

Having watched that ghost show before retiring for the night, and then having that nightmare made me immediately think of a paranormal occurrence, but I am a bit of a skeptic when push comes to shove. Besides, I don't really want to believe there are demons, bad energy, specters, or poltergeists that could cause such a thing. So, friends, what do I do when I am perplexed or curious? I Google.

Sure enough, all over the Internet there are blogs, news stories, forum discussions and Wikipedia articles about spontaneous explosions of tempered glass. I knew personally of glass that had broken due to temperature changes and some sort of installation problems in vehicles. But in this situation, neither of these things were in play. However, tempered glass is required in tables so that if there is a break, the glass will not be as dangerous in its broken state. As it was explained in one of the articles "experts say, because of the way tempered glass is made, it's essentially under high pressure, and the smallest nick or scratch can cause it to suddenly shatter. Manufacturing problems, such as compromised quality, or something as simple as a sudden temperature change can also cause a spontaneous shatter."

There was no unusual anything in this case. It had just exploded. I learned that there are many spontaneous glass breaking incidents reported every year. Some people have had shower doors spontaneously shatter in the middle of taking a shower. Can you imagine? Others have reported oven doors, microwave oven doors, windows in skyscrapers, and even drinking glasses have exploded without any external catalyst.  It's really kind of troubling when you think of all the "ill-tempered" glass that's out there.

I still have another end table from the same company and our kitchen table is glass, too. I am not sure if I want to replace the table top that broke, or replace the whole table and get rid of any potential for another middle of the night explosion.

Ghost stories and nightmares are scary, for sure. But the sound of shattering glass in the wee hours of a dark moonless night, can be just as scary. In fact, I am hoping I won't have any trouble sleeping tonight. I am sure I will be lying awake for a while, listening for things that go bump in the night.

Have a great day!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

I have been a little busy this week or I would have written something earlier. Let's see if I can catch you all up.

We have been back here in Florida for a little more than a month now. The rains that were relentless all summer while we were up in Massachusetts, stayed a little longer than usual, leaving extremely high water levels in all of the ponds and lush greenery everywhere. Although we had a couple of weeks in September when we first got back when there was rain every afternoon, that seems to be over. These past couple of weeks have been really lovely. Very little rain and lots of sun. The humidity is lower and it's a perfectly beautiful time of year here.

Typical sunset from our lanai

Ponds are very high all over our golf courses.

In Naples they don't call the months between November and April "the season" they just call it "Season" like Lent. It's like the Brits saying someone is "in hospital". They don't use "the"  but I don't know why that is, unless it's because we really don't have seasons of the year here, or at least not clearly defined seasons. So, maybe just calling it Season makes sense. Anyway, Season is beginning. Traffic is increasing, people are returning from up north. We have a lot of Canadians who live in our community and they'll be coming soon. They can only stay 6 months so they'll probably be coming down before the end of the month. I can always spot a Canadian. First, they are very polite and they say aboot instead of about.

You can see how close our lanai is to the water.
So activities here are picking up. Golf league started coincidentally with the beginning of my slump. I haven't played this badly in a long time. I am not sure it's my game. But I soldier on and enjoy the folks I golf with, even if I have a bad game. And of course I have been trying to work on writing more frequently, but life keeps getting in the way!

Jammies from Grammy!
I try to keep current with the grandbabies by talking to them on Facetime. It's hard to keep them in one place in front of the camera, but Bill and Kim do try. They are growing so fast. Here is a photo of them in some skeleton glow in the dark jammies I recently sent them. I call myself the Jammie Grammy because I love to buy them jammies.

Minions from the Movie.

 Kim just posted some photos of them as Minions from the movie Despicable Me. That was a very cute movie and the Minions were especially cute. Both Lily and Owen were Minions for the school Halloween Party today.

Arriving at Halloween Party

Minion 1

Minion 2

I talked to Lily this morning and for the third time on Facetime she asked me while looking closely into the i pad screen, "Where is my little daddy? The one who gets in his car and goes to work? I miss him." My poor son is beginning to think another Daddy comes into his home when he is not there. We can't figure out what she is talking about and why she asks me where her 'other little daddy is'? Most kids have imaginary friends. Our Lily has an imaginary 'little Daddy' who she says she misses. I  must have told her a story or shown her something that makes her think of that, but for the life of me I can't remember anything. Although, my friend Karen reminded me little kids are tuned into ghosts. Maybe the little Daddy is a ghost that visits only when she is with me? Hmmm...that's a little creepy.

In a related story...Two nights ago, I got a call from a production company in CA (Painless TV) who produces a show called The Dead Files that airs on the Travel Channel Friday nights. It's a show that follows a psychic and a retired NYPD detective around to haunted historical locations. They do research on the places and present the stories that sometimes fall right into place with what the psychic "feels" at these places.

The psychic on the left and the detective on the right.
This fellow had found one of my blog posts from The Hunt For Henrietta two years ago and the story really interested him. He wanted to know if I had any more details on the story, which I didn't, but it was fun to know that he had enjoyed the story. It was about a smallpox outbreak at Pullin Point in Chelsea, MA in the 1750s, caused by the captain of a ship that had run aground. The Captain hid the fact that a dying smallpox victim lay hidden below decks while locals were hired to unload the vessel. One of my ancestors was one of those locals, Thomas Patten, who helped unload the ship and ended up dying soon after. Fortunately, his son who was two years old at the time   survived the outbreak, to continue our family line. Thomas was my 5th great grandfather.

This producer thought it was a fascinating story, but there were a lot of loose ends that neither he or I could tie up when doing the research. He wanted to know what happened to the Captain after he was indicted and what happened to some of the other people in the story. After the first call I did a little more research and found a couple of tidbits about the ship's captain which I forwarded to him. There probably isn't enough for them to shoot a whole episode about this incident, but, it was still exciting to get this kind of call and I will be watching with renewed interest to see if Chelsea, MA ever comes up on Friday nights on the Travel Channel! 

And the last little tidbit is about a class I took this week. Ed's pie baking class is over so nothing to report there this week. No more practice pies, either, although I think we can expect one later next week because he did buy some ingredients. This week was my turn and I took a painting class. The painting was called "Funky Flamingo" and was done with acrylics on canvas, something I haven't every tried. Two of my buddies and I signed up together. There were 7 of us altogether in the class  and every body's picture came out a little different, just like when Ed and I did watercolors on the Cape last summer. Mostly, we had a lot of laughs and weren't very serious artists. It's sort of the way I play golf. If I don't laugh on every hole, it's not a good day!

The original painting by our teacher.

The original we copied was painted by the instructor. Each of us did something to make our own painting unique. The paints the teacher supplied weren't exactly what she had used so the colors were a little different, but close enough.  Lily calls all long legged birds "Mingos" so that's what I am calling my masterpiece: Grammy's Mingo.

Karen, Me and Sue Frey  with our Funky Flamingos
Karen's Mingo

Sue F's Mingo

Grammy's Mingo

Another round of golf tomorrow with our friends the Freys at a place called Ave Maria, about 30 miles from here. It's a town built by the founder of  Domino's pizza and from what I hear in addition to homes and the golf course, there is a beautiful Catholic church in the center of town and a university, all developed by this fellow who is a devout Catholic. Most of the people living there are members of the church and I think it will be interesting to see this place. I have heard a lot about it and it's golf course.  I am glad Ed will be with me. He's Catholic so  maybe we will have an advantage. At least he will know the proper prayers to offer when I am putting.
Panther's Run Golf Course at Ave Maria, FL

No rest for the wicked. I don't know how people can work when they live here. It's just too beautiful to spend any time inside. I hope you all have a great weekend! I will check in again soon.


Friday, October 11, 2013

The Pie Man Returneth

Last night Ed burst through the door, with a satisfied look on his face and a pie in his hand!

In fact he had two pies, in those white cardboard bakery boxes that are always so intriguing! Ed had his second and final pie making class last night. As you might recall, last week was Tart night and this was what he brought home to me:

In this week's class they worked on full size pies, perfecting the crust recipes and learning about rolling it out, etc. He made two pies, one already baked and ready to sample and one was ready to freeze or bake in the future.

First, was a lovely pumpkin pie, a great choice for a novice pie maker. One crust pies are always easier than two. But it was lovely and perfectly baked. The crust was flaky, the filling not overly spiced and very tasty. And, he even stopped on his way home to get some Redi-Whip. (although real whipped cream would have been preferable, it's the next best thing.) For this pie,  I'd give him an A+.

For the filling, they used real pumpkin puree instead of canned. It was delicious!

The second pie, not yet baked, was a lattice topped cherry pie. That one we will freeze and bake to bring to our next dinner party, no doubt. I think he did a terrific job on the lattice work, don't you?  I can't give him a grade on taste, but it gets another A+ for presentation!

As I write this shortened edition of my blog this morning, I am enjoying a wonderful breakfast of a slice of pumpkin pie and a nice steamy cup of Dunkin's Pumpkin coffee. Mmmmmmm. I suppose this really isn't on the Weight Watchers plan, but it is nutritious. It's made with fresh ingredients, including pumpkin, so I am thinking, this could be considered health food. Wouldn't you agree?

I have the best husband!!!!!!

Have a great day,

Saturday, October 05, 2013

From Tarts to Toads Part 2

Yesterday I wrote mostly about Ed's tarts. Today's blog is about toads. But before I get to toads...
Maggie is like most cats. She likes to hide in bags and chase things. But she has a peculiar fetish as well.

Maggie, our Tabby, who on most days can do no wrong, is particularly fond of rubbery things. We had a cat named Gumby, also a Tabby, who loved rubbery things so much he would steal my makeup sponges out of my drawer and run away with them.

Gumby was a great cat. Here, he was dressed as a superhero by one of my kids. He put up with everything.
Maggie's rubber fetish is even worse.

She loves rubber bands. She will often come into our room at night, making a guttural, yowl, reserved only for when she has hunted and successfully captured prey, something we recently discovered. She will carry these large red rubber bands into the room and deposit them on our bed, expecting us to rise and admire her catch, then shoot it across the room so that she can hunt it down and kill it once again. There are times that she deposits it in the toilet after she is finished hunting. Other times we have found them in her water dish.

She is also particularly fond of these foam rubber balls we found at the pet store for her. She will chase them, retrieve them and bring them back to us, batting them around and rolling around on the floor with them.

 They also frequently wind up on our bed, in the toilet or in her water dish. We have not yet figured out why she drops them, or the red rubber bands, into water. I think she just likes to see things float? Perhaps she's trying to drown it?
We returned home one day and found Maggie had used one of her rubber balls to add to our decor.

What does all this have to do with toads? I'm getting there.

Ever since we moved to Florida, Maggie, an indoor cat, has loved the challenge just outside her reach on the other side of the lanai screens of the dreaded gecko. These tiny things seem to stalk her, taunting her, mocking her, sometimes staring her down as she makes twitchy little movements with her mouth and funny little chirping noises as though she's trying to whisper. She will fly from another room of the house if I say out loud "Maggie, Gecko!" She comes running and assumes the position screen-side, readying to pounce, although her chance seldom comes.

As our newly built home reaches two years old, settling has resulted in a very tiny slice of daylight under the screen door on the lanai. Although you wouldn't think it possible, geckos do make their way inside, much to Maggie's delight. We will sometimes hear that guttural yowl of success and see her sitting there with a gecko, hanging on either side of her mouth like a handlebar mustache. Other times, she drops it and allows it to run around a bit, something I particularly love.

One day, I didn't have any glasses on and saw a leaf  under the bed. I got down on my hands and knees and reached under the bed, picking it up. I was already standing back up when I realized what was in my hand was a lifeless, rubbery corpse of a gecko. Of course I did the girlie thing and screamed, dropping it where I stood and running from the room. Why did I do that? It was clearly dead and only about 2 inches long. But it was pretty gross and felt like a fake, well, gecko. Apparently, this is an added attraction for Maggie. Not only does the gecko invite the fun of the hunt, her prize satisfies her rubber fetish as well.
Maggie squares off with a gecko.

We have had a lot of rain this past summer and it continues, raining almost every afternoon like clockwork. Apparently, this brings out toads. And we have loads of toads here. The tiniest of ones can fit under that screen door on our lanai, and Maggie is in the ready, lurking and waiting. She has free access to the lanai at night through cat door in our bedroom slider. I am a light sleeper and when I hear the pet door flap, followed by a guttural yowl, I know I have to investigate. She has been bringing tiny toads into our bedroom at the rate of two a night. No larger than my thumbnail, these dark, rubbery, round things are cute outside, but not in the bedroom. Maggie deposits them next to my bed, so far not in it. Usually they have already expired by the time she brings them to me, but not always.

Eastern Narrowmouth Toads 7/8" to 1 1/2 inches long. Call of the Eastern Narrow Mouth Toad
I read recently in the paper that the "Bufo Toad", also known as a Cane Toad, lives here in Naples. It is highly toxic to animals and there have been reports of pets dying due to fooling around with these things. I remember seeing a National Geographic special about Cane Toads. In some areas of Australia, they had become so overpopulated and such a nuisance that the people were literally trying to run them over with their cars.

Yuck! The call of the Bufo Toad
These are huge toads, weighing up to 6 pounds and measuring 15 inches in length. I remember quite well someone describing how if they ran over them front to back, they would literally explode. Disgusting!  In this same special, I first heard of the practice of "toad licking". These things carry a toxin that is a hallucinogen and people were deliberately tripping with these toads by licking their toadie faces. There is actually a name for this behavior:   "bufoglossation".

I don't think these little things are baby Bufos. But I may have identified them from Google searches as Eastern Narrowmouth Toads. Harmless little things that only grow to an inch or so. And yet, they cause me to cry out in fear when I find them in my home!

This is the kind of toad I used to have no problem handling as a kid growing up in Massachusetts
My latest experience with one of these diminutive little things was the night before last. I had just settled down to sleep, Ed was still out in the living room watching a late ball game. I heard the flap of the cat door followed by that yowl announcing Maggie was bringing home her catch. I turned on the light and there was a live toad, hopping around on the floor beside me. I yelled for Ed to come get it as I was trapped in my bed. He came in grumbling and I continued acting all girlie again telling him to "hurry up and get that thing before it goes under the night stand!" He grabbed a Kleenex and picked it up, heading toward the bathroom. "You don't have to kill it!" I said. He grumbled something else and proceeded to flush it down the toilet. I always feel a little guilty when I cause a little creature to die just because I am unhappy with it in my house. I have actually swept them out the door before, but Ed has no patience nor any qualms about eliminating them, and frankly at that hour I didn't really protest too much.

I turned the light out and eventually fell asleep. A few hours later, I got up to use the bathroom. I looked into the bowl, thank goodness, and there on the inside of the toilet bowl was this little toad. I lost all compassion for this thing and for some reason panicked as though my life were at stake. I repeatedly flushed before he finally disappeared in a swirl down the drain. I still was not sure it wouldn't reappear so I went down to the guest bathroom.

The next evening while we sat with our friends at Happy Hour, Ed told the story of having to save me from yet another toad the night before. I started to add to his story "Oh, Ed, I forgot to tell you, but I got up in the night and..." He then interrupted me, continuing his story, "But what she doesn't know is that when I got up in the middle of the night to use the toilet, that thing was still there, swimming around!" That thing was indestructible! We are not sure which one of us actually caused the toad to stay down once and for all. It's sort of like the firing squad who doesn't know which shooter has a real bullet in their gun.

Mr Toad
 The Toad- came- home!
When-the-Toad-came-home There was panic in the parlours and howling in the halls,
There was crying in the cow-sheds and shrieking in the stalls,
When the Toad- came- home!
When the Toad- came- home!
There was smashing in of window and crashing in of door,
There was chivvying of weasels that fainted on the floor,
When the Toad-came home!
(From Disney)

Do you think maybe the reason Maggie likes to put rubbery things in water has to do with some instinct that rubbery amphibious creatures belong in water? Or perhaps if she can't kill her rubber ball or her rubber band, she too attempts to drown it, until it is no longer a threat. I don't know. I wish I could read her mind sometimes. But mostly, I wish she'd stop bringing us her little friends. It's beginning to get old.

Have a great day everyone!

Friday, October 04, 2013

From Tarts to Toads

Today's blog covers several things in order to make up for the lag between this one and the previous blog. You see, I have been quite busy these past few day so I thought I'd fill you in on what's been happening. After all, the word "blog" is short for Weblog so, I am more or less writing a log of what's been going on in my life lately. All fascinating stuff, for sure! 

Although it doesn't have anything to do with Tarts or Toads, as today's title might imply, falling somewhere between the two, I have been getting back into the swing of golf. (pun intended). We had our first Ladies' Day Nine Hole event on Tuesday. My friend Karen and I and another lady were a team of three. Most teams were foursomes, but it isn't "season" here yet and there weren't that many playing. Ordinarily there are 10 or more teams out there, but this week we had but five. This greatly reduced the prize money, however, it conversely increased the odds of winning that reduced prize money.

Karen and me at some event. I don't drink beer so those all must have been hers. We have lots of laughs wherever we go. Drinks or no drinks. 
Anyway, I happened to have one of my better days out there, not making too many mistakes. We always have fun, which is the watchword of the Niners, as opposed to those Eighteen Holers who are way too cutthroat for me. But for the Niners last Tuesday, because we had a team with just three players and the game was "best 2 of 4" they did what's called a "blind draw". As I understand it, the computer chooses another player's score and adds it to ours as if she were on our team. Well, apparently, our blind golfer was a very good player because, miracles of miracles, we won! We each won $10 credit in the pro shop which will buy me a pair of socks or half a hat. Come to think of it, I wonder if we had to split the prize money with that blind golfer? I'm not sure that's fair!

So, on to Tarts! Ed decided to take a pie making class with the Collier County Continuing Ed program. Some of you may not know that Ed spent many years in his younger days working in kitchens around Cape Cod. (I mean kitchens in restaurants, not just kitchens in random houses around the area.) In the Navy Ed was in charge of the whole ship's kitchen and fed hundreds. And for part of his time in the service, he was the Captain's own chef for a while, feeding just the elite on board. (I don't think they really called him that, but it sounds sort of like the 'Queen's Own Scribe' or something like that and I thought you'd get the idea.)

So, Ed knows his way around a kitchen but had never baked. I must interject a comment here. Ed complains all the time that I don't cook for him. But I told him well before we were married that I do not like to cook. The smoke detector in our home was the dinner bell for my kids. They seldom had anything for supper that wasn't baked with some kind of macaroni, all in one dish or something served for breakfast in most homes. However, in my own defense, I could bake them a nice birthday cake or a batch of cookies. And I've baked my share of pies, as well.

Back to the story. Ed decided that since he had never baked before, he would learn how.

I am not sure why he was inspired to do so simultaneously with me signing up for Weight Watchers for the ska-tie-eighth time, but he did. And last night was his first night at class. His class started at 6:00 and I waited with bated breath to see what tempting tidbit he'd bring home to me. Sure enough, around 9:30 he came bursting through the door, bakery box in hand, beaming with pride. He told me it was tart night and that he'd had more fun at this class than he'd had in a long time. Hmmm...

Of course I was thinking of all kinds of cute little quips about that tart night thing until he opened the box and revealed his tiny works of art! I was so impressed. It took me quite by surprise, I must say. So artfully assembled and professionally presented were these little gems that I, too, was beaming with pride for him! He had made several unfilled little tart shells along with some beautiful fruit tarts, filled with pastry creme and fresh fruit.

Ed is not one to hide his light under a bushel, No! (anybody else remember that song?) After the photo shoot, he immediately went next door to Ron and Sandy's house, even though it was 9:30 at night and we live in a community of early retirees who eat dinner at 4:30 so as not to miss Happy Hour. 

Ron and Sandy sampled Ed's tarts
He gave our friends one of his two treasures to try and of course they were mightily impressed. I, being on Weight Watchers, had one little bite of the remaining tart and had to agree with Sandy, it was delicious.

Ed had a great day yesterday. Aside from his success in the kitchen, he also shot a 48 that morning playing 9 holes before the rain came. I just thought I'd throw that in there, since I didn't want you to think Ed was a one-trick-pony!

Headstand on his 60th birthday in 2009. Rotator cuff surgery 21 days later.
So, on to the Toad part of this blog...

...On second thought, I think I will save that Toads for part two! Stay tuned!

Have a great day everyone!

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