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It is interesting to see the collection of 9-11 remembrances stream by on Facebook. Interestingly, there are far more of them from my Jersey and New York friends and acquaintances than from my Vermont folk. I attribute this to the fact that some of us lived through it firsthand where others outside of the NY/NJ area didn’t have that experience.
It was a beautiful day, much like today. We had a routine, Tom and I, in those days. I would drive the boys to school, they were all in the same building at that time and then meet Tom to grab coffee. We would grab coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts and each depart to our respective offices.

I had the news on that morning and they reported that a plane had struck one tower of the World Trade Center. The reporter made it seem as if it were a small plane and my first thought was how does a pilot miss one of the tallest buildings in Manhattan? The news was sketchy and when we left, we could see the Manhattan skyline from the highway, and the smoke coming from the one tower. Still, we really didn’t have a clue. It wasn’t until I reached my office that the news came pouring in – the second tower, the Pentagon, the plane in Pennsylvania. Tom and I spoke a couple of times on the phone and since I was closer, reluctantly left my office a little before 11 to get the boys from school. Honestly, I felt a big like a hysterical mom but nonetheless, picked them up. Many of the kids had already been picked up so I guess I wasn’t so hysterical after all and my paranoid husband wasn’t quite so paranoid. The plan at the schools was that those children that a parent didn’t come to get by the end of the day would be taken by the police to the designated bomb shelter in town until their parents came for them or other family members could be reached. You see being so close to Manhattan, there was a real fear that many of those kids, like a lot of children around the area, wouldn’t have parents coming to get them because the parents worked in Manhattan and either couldn’t leave because of the complete shut down of everything or they were victims of the attack and would never be coming home.

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: V...

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: View of the World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty. (Image: US National Park Service ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With the boys safely at home, Tom and our friend and neighbor who carpooled together, eventually made their way back home. If you think people in other parts of the country were confused about what was happening and scared, imagine how we felt. Close enough to see and yet still in the dark about what was happening. It was eerie and surreal. I to this day cannot even fathom what the people who were in Manhattan that day experienced, although I heard plenty of stories from friends in the weeks that followed.

Planes had been ordered on the ground so the normal background noise of air traffic, consisting of the major airports, the local airports and news and traffic helicopters, was gone. Except for the occasional military jet which was loud and invisible to us, it was silent. Scary silent. Everyone was scared, jumping at any noise since we were all on edge. We speculated and grasped at the tiniest bit of information – correct or incorrect. I remember that our church that night was packed like it had never been even on the busiest of religious holidays, there was a prayer service and it seemed like everyone was there.

Everyone posts “Never Forget” and “Always Remember” — it is etched in my mind and on my very soul. It was a scary, scary few days in our area especially when we began to hear the stories of those that we knew who didn’t make it home or ( there but for the grace of God or fate (whichever you believe)), those that would have been in the vicinity of the Twin Towers or in the Towers on that day but for some reason never made it.

My boys were young and most likely don’t remember too much. The world before and the world after are two very different worlds. They remember the confusion, they remember most likely that their parents were scared and we couldn’t answer their questions since we had no idea what was going on ourselves. We could only reassure them the best we could, that they were safe and they we could pray that we were correct.

Exactly one year to the day, on another beautiful day I was driving down the street to pick up the boys from school. I didn’t get more than 50 feet from my driveway when a huge branch from one of the gigantic old trees that graced both sides of the street came crashing through the front windshield of the truck. Given the first anniversary of September 11th, and everyone’s general uneasiness of what may or may not happen, I was quite shaken. But for the existence of the steering wheel, I would have been speared like a fish. Glass was everywhere. I had a bunch of tiny cuts but thankfully the boys weren’t in the truck since the force of the impact filled the back seat with hundreds of little shards of glass. They would have been hurt and since they didn’t wear glasses like I did, could have even had their eyesight damaged.

So, yes in my book 9-11 is difficult to forget for many reasons but they pale in comparison to the loss and tragedy suffered by so many others.
On this anniversary like each one before and each that will follow, a prayer goes out to all those who weren’t as lucky as we were. May they have some comfort in knowing that their grief is shared by an entire nation.

So disappointed in you, New Jersey. I expected better. Fist fights at the gas pumps? People cutting in line to get gas and muscle out people that have been waiting, patiently and legally for hours? State and local police having to waste their time monitoring your behavior while you buy gas when they could be out rescuing people or doing so many other things that are so much more useful and necessary in such a crisis? Shame on you!

Oh, don’t whine that I don’t know what is going on there. Don’t use that as an excuse for your behavior. I am from there. More importantly, I have seen you and I know what good people you can be. Even more importantly I can say this because we lived through this. Last year my whole entire state here in Vermont got ravaged by Irene. Things were bad, things in fact were horrible and yet people were civil. Entire communities were cut off, isolated. There was no access to travel across the state. People were stranded, isolated, cut off from civilization. Gas ran out. People didn’t succumb to this embarrassing behavior. They helped each other out. They cut paths through the woods to some of the isolated communities and set up the means to get them where they needed to be when they walked themselves the mile or so out to where the road was accessible. They gathered supplies and did whatever they could to get them, including their own gas, into places that were cut-off and didn’t have any. We didn’t require the police to monitor our everyday behavior and stand guard at our gas pumps. We did what most people in crisis do — we rose above and helped each other out instead of making each other the enemy. Social media here wasn’t replete with videos of people fist fighting at gas pumps and picture after picture and comment after comment about police standing guard to maintain the order while you get gas and how obnoxious you are being to each other. This is just plain disgusting and makes me embarrassed to say that I come from New Jersey.

While I know that it is not all of you, and it is probably only a small minority of citizens, it is still disappointing to see over and over again and a sad commentary on human nature. You are, and you should be, better than that.

Here in Vermont we were very lucky this time around when Hurricane Sandy struck — we were spared the devastation that took all of us by surprise a year ago in August. It is sad to see the destruction that has befallen our home state of New Jersey, especially “down the shore”.

It was however interesting to see as I drove around over this past weekend and on Monday before the storm gained a foothold, the preparations being taken here, although the forecast was not as dire as it was in the New York area and other coastal sections of the eastern seaboard. The gas stations were doing a booming business since everyone was there, filling their vehicles, filling their supply of gas cans (a requirement here in Vermont), and even some folks had their generators on their vehicles, filling those as well. The stores didn’t have the run that the stores closer to the storm did, but clearly you could see that people had some extra water or milk in their shopping carts. As I dropped a child off down in town, I was amazed to see that every single house along the way had their outdoor belongings tucked away or tied down, bare lawns and secured belongings clearly added to the evidence that the folks in Vermont weren’t taking any chances this time around.

One of the good things about living up here is that you feel almost compelled to be “stocked up”. Everyone, or so it seems, puts food by for the winter…or the blizzard….or the hurricane… or even the zombie apocalypse (Happy Halloween, everyone!) if you believe my sons. If you don’t can, pickle, dry or jar you are pretty much a newbie and you feel like a loser. If you haven’t learned how to make at least some of the stuff that you eat yourself … well, you definitely aren’t from around these parts. Everyone that I know does some form of preservation of the fresh summer veggies and has other goodies tucked away to keep them going through the bad weather.

My recent posts on homemade yogurt and homemade granola go hand in hand with my post on homemade jam. The peppers from the garden have been sliced and frozen for winter soups or stir fries. The tomatoes have been slowly boiled down to sauce and tucked away in the freezer. Habanero peppers, cayenne peppers and Thai peppers have been dried, as has the basil that now resides in a mason jar on a shelf in the pantry. I have made pickles and put up Jersey peaches at the height of the season.

Potatoes from the garden will be stored in the basement, along with the canned goods and non-perishables that will help us weather what Mother Nature and zombies may throw our way in the coming months. My sourdough starter is in mason jars (note the plural) in the fridge and can easily be turned into a loaf of bread when the mood strikes.

We have huge stockpots that were hauled out a few days ago to hold water in the event that the power went out, so we wouldn’t need to start the generator right away. The firewood was brought in and stacked by the wood stove. Many a batch of dough has risen by the warmth of that fire as have many bagels, cinnamon buns and dinner rolls. When the power was out before the generator, we even cooked soup and boiled water for pasta on the wood stove.

We are fortunate that the farm down the hill is a dairy farm and we have gotten raw milk there on occasion – especially when the ladies and I made cheese.

 

 

I remember someone that I knew in New Jersey years ago commenting, “why store stuff in our house when we have the supermarket down the street, storing everything for us?” Why? Because you never know when zombies can come out of the wood work or the “storm of the century” decides that you are in its path. Here, we lose the power quite a bit (not as much as we used to, but it happens with some frequency, especially during windy or rainy weather). Sometimes, it happens when you least expect it. For instance, two weeks ago at about 10 p.m. the power went out for about 1/2 hour for no discernable reason. I was critical of Tom’s decision to buy a generator, figuring candles are romantic aren’t they? However, not being able to shower or flush the toilets or have drinking water, isn’t. When we lived in New Jersey a power outage if it occurred usually happened at the height of a heatwave and resulted in no power. We had a gas stove and our water came from the water system. Here, our water comes from a well that guess what? Doesn’t work without power so when our power goes out, so goes our water, and our showers and our toilets. Trust me, generators are a good thing and for the time or two that you might need them for days or a week or more, you will be thanking your stars that you invested in one.

If living in Vermont, and my wonderful neighbors and friends, have taught me anything, it is that we have to be prepared to be self-sufficient — whatever the reason. We could survive here for days (in fact, last year when Irene struck we did) without a store run and weeks if necessary. I have made bread on the gas grill, I have cooked dinner on the wood stove. We have melted snow in pots on the wood stove to flush toilets. It may sound apocalyptic but it’s not. It’s being prepared. We are fortunate to have honey from the bees and fresh eggs from the chickens. If the zombies ever did strike, I am sure that we could have chicken from the chickens as well, but I’m hoping that we don’t have to go that route. The goats, cuties that they are, are off limits.

Being prepared is something that I have learned not to take for granted. You never know when the weather or the zombies may take a turn for the worse and after these last few storms we have all learned that you can never, ever be too prepared. In addition, knowing that you can take care of yourself and be self reliant and self sufficient, even if it is only for a few days, is a really good feeling.

I bet that you think this post is actually about the Superbowl. It’s really not. It’s just that Superbowl Sunday was always our favorite driving evening. Our trips home from Vermont on Superbowl Sunday were peaceful. We would coordinate our “kickoff” with their “kickoff”. No one is on the road. No one. It is borderline creepy, actually. Everyone is always wrapped up watching the game, drinking to the game, eating to the game, yelling at their televisions — that no one is every really on the road. There was no traffic and it was a usually pretty traffic-free drive. Even the police for the most part seemed to have somewhere indoors to be on Superbowl Sunday.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 08:  The reflecti...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Driving the boys home this afternoon, and seeing the various houses with cars accumulating in their yards, I smiled to myself. Yes, this was “our” day to travel — Tom and I — great conversation, low stress driving, we didn’t need to scream at a television.

And as for the actual Superbowl — here’s my Superbowl rant.  I really haven’t forgiven the New York Giants for playing all these years in New Jersey and still having the nerve to say they are from New York — seriously, a little respect for Jersey, please. At least the New England Patriots are actually in New England.

‘Nuf said —- Happy Superbowl Folks — scream away at your televisions and enjoy.

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Yesterday, we picked up our second week of CSA from Evening Song Farm. My goodness, I am just amazed at how things are growing so close to our house and I have, with the exception of tomatoes, essentially just seedlings in the garden. Plus, it was nice to meet Kara’s mom – also a fellow New Jersey-ite – and chat over the farm, the old Jersey neighborhood (since I grew up in the town next door to where she lives) and Vermont. I also ran into another acquaintance while I was there and we had a nice chat about the yoga class in town, which I am now going to definitely give a try. I probably could have been there talking for at least another hour, happily chatting away, except Tim was with me and after he was chatting for a while, politely reminded me that he did have to study for exams. Not only do I get my veggies, but I also get to talk to a bunch of very interesting people. Oh well, off we went.

This week I chose a beautiful head of lettuce, baby bok choy, spinach, green garlic, scallions, arugula, and chard. The variety that you can choose from is widely assorted – there were also radishes, salad turnips, mesclun mix, baby lettuce, parsley and kale – although I am sure that I am missing a choice or two.

For dinner last night, we enjoyed the lettuce in a salad. Today, I am sure that I am going to make sauteed baby bok choy again. That was delicious.

Sauteed Baby Bok Choy

Needed:

1 bunch baby bok choy – with ends trimmed

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce

Process:

Saute the garlic in the olive oil at medium heat. Add the bok choy and Sriracha sauce.

Saute, stirring constantly until bok choy is tender crisp.

 

County Route 612 (Middlesex County, New Jersey)

Image via Wikipedia

Yes, I am serious. July 4th through July 11th is Be Nice to New Jersey week. It is a real bona fide holiday. I grew up in New Jersey and lived there until only about 4 years ago and I had no clue. Amazing.

Evidently, Lone Star Publications came up with the idea in 1985 maintaining that poor little old New Jersey was maligned and suffered a bad rap. So… what exit are you from?

Seriously, in the spirit of the week, be nice to New Jersey. Please.

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Spring break is behind us – Memorial Day is in front of us – May is just around the corner as I write this. For those of you who don’t live in the Great White North, seedlings and flowers, vegetables, the beach and barbeques come to mind while you dream. For those of us that do, there is a widespread frost alert for tonight, which means that anything that is already growing, might not be tomorrow morning. It also means that when you look around at the mountains (and trust me we have plenty of them) there is snow in them there hills. I am not referring to the mountains that house the ski resorts, the trails on those in many areas still carry strips of white among the green that is rapidly blossoming to life. Rather, the entire higher elevations are coated in white, frosted if you will and they look delicious.

We returned from our trip to New Jersey on Friday evening and awoke to snowflakes the size of softballs falling from the sky Saturday morning. Most of Saturday there was more snow than rain falling from the sky.

For those of you who are skeptical, I post bearing photos. I wish that I would have taken them this morning, but as of late afternoon, they are still quite white. For those of you who doubt and think I photoshopped (FYI I don’t even own it) or swapped out a real winter picture – note the budding trees in the foreground.

No one in these parts really considers Memorial Day the beginning of summer, by then it still really won’t seem like summer as it will in places south of here. No one will be running to the beach unless of course they are part of the Polar Bear Club. The water will still be quite chilly. Pools and the lakes around here don’t really open for business until late June. Our last frost date is early June. Summer is short, but it is sweet.

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We arrived back home last night from our trip to New Jersey for my aunt’s funeral. While the circumstances were sad, it was so nice to see so many cousins that I have not seen in ages. My boys got a chance to meet family that they have never met and hopefully some nice lifelong connections will come out of it for them with their new cousins (I know some Facebook connections are happening as I type this). My aunt would have been so pleased to see her whole family together, since that was her one wish, laughing and remembering her, (even if it was my cousin Kim and I that had to do the talking for all of us at the mausoleum).

The boys got the opportunity to spend some real quality time with their cousin Emily who they all adore. It is so much fun to watch these teenage boys gather around her with eyes so wide open, laughing and playing. I have a bunch of pictures to download and post so everyone can enjoy them.

It is so hard to condense a lifetime of places and friends, family and relationships into a couple days. We tried to do the best we could and for those of you that we missed, we’ll try next time but you know you all are welcome up north anytime.

We woke this morning to snow and there is more forecast for the entire weekend in the higher elevations, which means us. What a stark contrast from the warm, almost summer-like temperatures over the past few days in NJ.

And in the words of Dorothy … “there’s no place like home”….. while we enjoyed visiting, it is good to be home.

It’s quiet here on the hill – carpooling has hit a low. I picked up only two kids today and they were both my own. Everyone else has taken an early start to next week’s vacation – any excuse to leave Vermont during mud season I guess, although it’s not too bad this year.

The warm weather that we have had over the past couple days (and folks in NJ I am talking 60s to perhaps just a pinch into the 70s – not like the 88s and such you’ve already had) is a reminder that spring is definitely on her way. She may however have to duke it out one last time with Old Man winter since snow is forecast for tomorrow night and Saturday. No real accumulation predicted, but then again it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve woken up to snow that just wasn’t on the weather reporter’s radar.

Not much chance of that in New Jersey, now is there?

Sometimes it takes sadness to remind you of how lucky you are and how fortunate you are to have both family and friends around you. I was standing Wednesday night in my aunt’s hospital room, looking around at her and her belongings and thinking how much we importance we place on the things around us, whether they be pieces of jewelry or clothing or even a favorite photo or novel. On her table lay her glasses and a half-read paperback novel, one she would not finish. She was still wearing her bracelets, her ring and her necklace. These items mean little to someone who is lying in a hospital bed, dying of cancer, however we place such importance on these  “things” and so many other inconsequential “things” during our lives, when we are healthy and death is someone else’s tragedy.

The sense of accomplishment I felt on Wednesday morning was quickly replaced by sadness late Wednesday afternoon, as I was driving down to New Jersey after speaking to my mom and learning the her sister, my aunt, was indeed dying and this was my race against fate to attempt to say goodbye. Caught between the conflicting duties of child and mother the remainder of the week was a whirlwind to say the least. I found myself driving back on Thursday afternoon to be here for a tooth extraction appointment for my youngest son (which I wound up missing and Tom covered) and my oldest son’s birthday. News came in the early morning hours on Saturday that my aunt had passed away. I think that the hardest part of the events over the last few days was leaving to come home. I left the hospital and my aunt knowing that I would never see her again despite my attempt at a cheery goodbye to her. I also left with the smacking realization that it was highly likely that one day that same type of encounter could be the last exchange that I would have with my mother. I would say goodbye and realize that perhaps it might be for the last time, not for a desire to be there, but trying to resolve the conflicting roles of mother and daughter.

Easter was a bittersweet holiday, tinged with the reminder that life really is special and our relationships with those special in our lives should be cherished.

Town Meeting Crowd
Image by redjar via Flickr

Town meeting is a New England tradition. It began in Massachusetts in 1633 and has been held in Vermont since before there was a Vermont. The first meeting in Vermont was held in Bennington in 1762. It is held here in Vermont on the second day of March. Today, March 2nd is Town Meeting Day here in Vermont.

Town meeting is the purest form of democracy since the people directly can influence the way that their government is run and voice their concerns. In our town, the town meeting is held the night before Town Meeting Day, which here in Wallingford is purely election day.

Certain items were voted on directly at Town meeting last night, including the town’s budget for next operating year. Other items, such as the election of members to the selectboard and school board will be voted by Australian Ballot today at Town Hall.

Our boys got their first taste of New England government by attending the meeting with us. All three need the requirement of attending a selectboard or school board meeting for their Boy Scout Eagle Citizenship in the Community requirement. I must say that they were attentive considering it was a dual selectboard-school board meeting and took well over two hours. We pointed the items being discussed (line items in the town’s budget and school budget) to them so they could better understand. The fact that many of people that stood up and voiced their concerns, desires or opinions were familiar faces to the boys. What makes town meeting so interesting to me is that I am always amazed at how serious and concerned the citizens are. No one takes their responsibilities lightly and no questions is too minor to be asked. From increasing our budget by $1000 to mail the town report booklet which we didn’t do this year to adding more monies to the road maintenance budge to fix flooded out roads, everyone got their say.

I hope that my boys understand that what they saw last night was democracy in action, a view that they never would have had if we were still in New Jersey since there is no comparable system in place.

Happy Town Meeting Day!

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Today is Opening Day. No, not baseball opening day and no, not hunting opening day. Today is Snowmobiling Opening Day. Today is the first day that the VAST trails are open since hunting season ended yesterday.

Founded almost 40 years ago, VAST is responsible for the organization of the sport, maintaining and grooming trails. One of the oldest snowmobiling organizations in the U.S., VAST is a non-profit, private group that includes 138 clubs statewide, with over 35,000 members combined. (Taken from VAST’s site)

Beginning today, snowmobile trails throughout the state of Vermont are open for riding. Most of the riding takes place on private lands that landowners generously allow to be used by snowmobilers. Wouldn’t find that in New Jersey now would you? No one here thinks twice if a band of snowmobilers comes riding through their yard. After all, it’s winter. No more so than the rouge cross-country skier or snowshoer that wanders through.  Did you know that you can travel from one end of the state to the other solely by snowmobile? How cool is that? We are lucky that we have trails right outside of our door and Tom and Tyler will be off on the snowmobobies (as Tyler used to call them). The side benefit to me, is that I get my cross-country ski trails groomed in the mix. It’s all good.

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