Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It Could Have Been Worse

Ever discover something -- see something you wish you hadn't -- and think "This is going to be really bad."

And it sort of is. But it could have been worse!

Well, that happened to me today, but not only could it have been worse, but I had the real pleasure of spending some time with the Don, the Bug Man.
I've seen some big black ants in the kitchen for a month or so, and get very good at smashing them with my fist and tossing them down the drain. Annoying, but hey, I live in Michigan. We get bugs.

But when I went down to do laundry a few nights ago, I noticed a rather large pile of wood dust coming from the ceiling beams near the washer. (We won't even go into the fact that this no doubt didn't pop up since the last time I washed clothes...)

So, I called Bug Man.

Now, I had called Bug Man here in Lansing back a couple years ago, when I was experiencing "The Invasion of the Kitchen Moths." Don came out then, and while there were drastic measures they could do to take care of this, and he'd certainly do them if I liked, he basically said the cure was almost worse than the disease, and suggested a more natural remedy to help. No charge for the service call, which is pretty darned unbelievable.

So, when I saw that pile of sawdust, I called them back, because any business this honest deserves my patronage.

Not only did they get me in quickly, but they sent Don again, and he was just the best!

As we toured the house, he pointed out things that would be useful to take care of -- getting wood out of the crawl space (who knew it was even there?); getting a dehumidifyer -- 30-50 gallons; cut the tree limbs touching the roof because ants can get in that way -- that kind of thing.

And he instantly found the problem -- carpenter ants in one spot. And while he was looking, he checked for termites (None found! A-OK! Hooray!).

Now, this is all the technical stuff. But it wasn't why I really was glad Don came to take care of the job.

It's because this is a man who genuinely enjoys his work.

You could see it on his face, as he got so excited when talking about the jobs he loves and hates ("I don't really want to do another flea job," he said, after saying this was flea season. "They're boring.")

His favorite? Yellow jackets! "I love getting the yellow jackets! The danger! The risk!" (And he's had a few stings to go with it, but it doesn't stop him from loving it.)

"It's like being a sleuth," he explained. "You're poking around to find them. And sometimes you don't, but when you do...!" And he smiled that great smile.

I said, "You sound like you love your work." And he replied, "I love my job. If you don't, why are you doing it?"

On his website, he has a photo of him by his "pest cemetery." He loves his work so much, he almost makes me want to do it. Almost.

Oh -- and about the ants? Well, took me back downstairs after he sprayed, and sure enough -- in the hole where the ants were hanging out, they were pouring out! All over that beam. And within minutes, they dropped to the floor, deader than door nails! There may be a stray for a day or two, but this stuff works!

And so (and now, Cathy and others bug-squeamish, you can click away if you like), I present to you -- dead ants by the pile. (This may be my most embarrassing blog moment.) But they're so glad I just had to share.

Oh, yes -- and how much did all this cost me? $125. Dollars well spent. I needed this far more than more paints or yarn!

Thanks, Don! You guys are the best!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Someone I Love Is 21 Today!

It was one of those warm summer early evenings, when the sun is still high in the sky, the weather warm and play time will continue for a little while longer.

I was standing at the kitchen sink -- doing dishes or a craft project -- I don't remember which. But my eye was taken by an enchanting sight on the lawn across the street.

Two little boys were running about, ducking in and out of an appliance box fort that was decked with a tall flag. I could hear delighted laughing. It was the happiest sight I had ever seen.

I had no way of knowing that several years later, those little boys would become a big part of my life.

The youngest of those boys -- the one on the right -- was five years old that day. Today he turns 21.

I really didn't get to know Kevin and his brother, Greg, until two years later, although one of my earliest memories of my relationship with their dad was a Christmas Eve not long before that when he invited me down to his house.

We were just friends, only slightly more than acquaintances at that time. When I arrived around 9:30, Rick was in the midst of wrapping presents in Santa paper, and the two boys were sound asleep, dreaming of sugarplums, no doubt! Of course I helped, because among my other passions, wrapping is a favorite! And it was at that moment, I saw how much he loved those boys, and that told me a lot about him.

By the next Christmas, I was cleaning up the mess when Kevin had stomach flu on Christmas morning. I don't clean up like that for just anyone!

Through the years, I've been privileged to watch Kevin grow. (He's the one on the right with the white t-shirt, with Greg and Mama K's kids, Heather and Joe at the lake.)

And grow.

And grow.

And grow.

That little boy who was pushing the lawn mower when he was about 10, eager to do anything to earn money, now works like crazy at his fast food and football coaching jobs, all sandwiched in with school and "life."

I didn't know Kevin when he looked like this...

Or this...

Or this.

I wish I did. But I've known him during most of the "formative years" -- and we all know those go on for a long while.

When I think of Kevin, I think of the Christmas when Rick gave him the stuffed puppy he'd been wanting. I don't think he let go of it all weekend.

I think of the time we went to Rick's cousin's graduation from Cranbrook and Kevin refused to get out of the car -- for brunch, for the graduation reception, the whole thing. That wasn't our best day!

I smile when I think of how Kevin always got into setting the table and lighting the candles for special occasion dinners.

I remember his volunteering for WKAR's Auction. It was fun for me to see him there sorting bids with the other kids, and I was proud of him -- he did a good job.

I laugh when I recall the four of us going to Frankenmuth over the Christmas holidays and enjoying chicken dinner -- Kevin is the one with blackjack gum on his teeth!

I'll never forget when Kevin and Greg tried very hard to fool me into eating a boullion cube from Japan, which looked like a candy. I didn't bite. ("I couldn't possibly take the candy your dad brought for you -- you have it, but thank you!") I wasn't born yesterday -- I could tell by the badly suppressed giggles that pretty treat was no candy!

I was touched beyond words when I read the theme he wrote in seventh grade about Timmy, a developmentally disabled young man in our neighborhood. It was a side of him I'd never seen.

I loved our Sunday morning ritual of pancake breakfasts, like one on Father's Day...

The first time the kids were at the lake and he went fishing and caught bluegills...

It was a "catch and release" moment.

And equally memorable were the times he sulked because we didn't have cool water toys, like jet skis. (In this photo, he still liked the row boat!)

Ah, the teen years! There were the times when our conversations seemed to be one sided, with Rick or I using words and Kevin replying with "Uh" or "Whatever."

And those glorious times later and now when our conversations became much more interesting and animated!

For ears we have counted on Kevin to frost the most obnoxious cookie on the cookie plate every Christmas Eve.

(Fortunately -- or unfortunately, perhaps -- he then eats it in one bite! Or tries!)

Both Rick and I worried tremendously during the high school years when he played football. He played well enough to get a football scholarship to college, but after injuries his freshman and sophomore years, he couldn't play on the team anymore.

So, he transferred to MSU and now he coaches at his high school. I'm glad he still gets to be part of it. And isn't in the fray.

It's fun to watch this little boy grow into a young man. He surprises us often and in all the best ways. His work ethic is strong. He's smart. He's even improved in his Christmas shopping! (I was so impressed his first Christmas in college, when he gave me the book "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell. His world had expanded and he was sharing it with us.)

There was a time when I think Kevin avoided us whenever he could. I'm told that happens with lots of teens. But now he'll call Rick for lunch or ask to come to dinner. We love it when he does, and it's more fun when he brings his girlfriend, Molly.

Kevin and Greg have always been polar in their interests, their styles, their personalities. I love them both to pieces.

But today's Kevin's day. I know he'll want to do the "I'm 21" thing, and we'll both worry a lot tonight and probably won't rest until we hear from him tomorrow. But we also know he's smart enough to have a designated driver!

Kevin has been part of my life for almost fourteen years. Rick has given me many wonderful gifts during our time together -- the practical, the beautiful, the creative, the surprising, the fun. But none has been more precious to me than allowing me the privilege to share in the lives of his children.

Happy Birthday, Kevin. Be safe, be strong, be healthy, be happy. Love wisely, but with a full and generous heart. I know you've had your ups and downs growing up -- it's hard enough to have two parents, much less two sets. But know always that we all love you. Never forget what Ted Kennedy's family taught him -- For those to whom much has been given, much is expected. Remember the Timmys of this world and the others you can help along the way. Even on the worst days, there is always much to learn, and on the best there is much to celebrate. Life is good. Cherish every minute! We love you.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Summer Into Fall

Taking a Pink Saturday break for a couple of weeks, but I'll be back soon. If you've never visited before, scroll down a few posts to catch my last week's Pink Saturday -- a wonderful shop in Northern Michigan that knows how to mix pink, blue, white, impatiens and lovely French antiques for a beautiful look!

On the last evening of summer several days ago, I took a walk in our neighborhood. About eight blocks away from my house is a man made wetlands, instigated by our drain commissioner after assessing property owners a small fortune during a sewer separation project.

Rick was heavily assessed, so whenever I walk down to what he calls "the ditch," I always say quietly to myself (and occasionally to him), "Thank you, Rick!"

It was damp and muggy on Monday evening and the air was thick with the smell of rain and grass, the ground still damp from an afternoon shower.

Lots of people were walking on around the perimeter of "the ditch," some with dogs, others with iPods. I was enjoying the quiet and the colors, getting ready to burst.

I call these "fire bushes" and they were certainly a brilliant red. Yes, fall is coming. No, fall is here.

Clumps of purple asters and cat tails surrounded the water's edge.

The sun had set before I arrived, and in the twilight, the clouds were taking on some lovely colors.

I'm not sure, but I think this was a nest for some water creature.

And the colors. A sneak preview of what is to come, I think.

I have a love-hate relationship with fall. It is beautiful, and what's not to love about that.

But it seems so short -- not in days, perhaps, but in all the things that make it fall -- beautiful reds, yellows, golds and purples; sunny, crisp days, and bright blue skies.

Soon enough the leaves will fall, the crisp days will turn cold and the bright blue skies will be filled with clouds that will dump snow.

So, I will love it while I can and moan a bit when the leaves drop and leave a spider web of dark branches against the sky.

Yes, it really is fall.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Le Cafe du Vin

We haven't had a wine tasting gathering for a long while. Oh, we tried -- but getting eleven people's schedule's in synch during the summer is anything but easy. We Cork Poppers are a busy bunch!

So, last Sunday afternoon, we gathered at Rick's to celebrate French Bistro wines, with our wine group.

We turned Rick's patio into Le Cafe du Vin, an outdoor cafe, with our tasting area -- a circle of chairs around a feast of fabulous cheeses, crackers, bread and snacks!

I pulled together a few of my photos from France (which was why we chose this particular theme!) and mounted them. And our wine expert Dick chose a delicious selection for our tasting. I do love tasting!

The first was a 2006 Chardonnay by Georges Dubouef called Macon Villages, which was from the village of Macon in the Burgundy region of France.
Aged in cement casks, it was a lovely white wine, that was crisp, gently sweet, and a bit fruity. At $14.39/bottle, it was a fair deal.

And, as Barb always says about the first one, "It's the best so far!"

Next up we enjoyed an other Georges Dubouef, a Pouilly-Fyisse Chardonnay, also 2006.

We learned for these wines, 2006 was a very good year! It was dry, rich, less fruity and quite delicious. This was the top level of chardonnay from Burgundy, and the $25 price tag showed it. I think I preferred the first.

I learned that Georges Dubuoef is a negociant (spelling?) -- one who buys grapes and has it made into wine, rather than growing them.

Our third wine was a Domaine Vigneau-Chevreau Vouvray, 2005.

It was very dry, using Chenin Blanc grapes and coming from the Loire Valley in France. The light yellow/straw color was lovely, and simply filled the mouth with a delicious flavor.

The verdict was mixed on this one. Pat said is smelled awful, like detergent, while Roger caught a whiff of damp mold. I got nothing from the fragrance, but then, I have trouble with smelling these days. Clayton determined it got better as it sat and breathed and I think I agreed with him on that. Many of us took notes!

Dick said 2005 was an exceptional year for the Loire valley, This may be why it was $21.50!

It was on to the rose selections. The first was Perrin Reserve Rose 2007 from the Cotes Du Rhone region.

It was the most gorgeous shade of red with a hint of orange. It had a nice full color and all I could think was that I wanted a sweater this color! It was very good -- I said "yum!" And at $10 a bottle, a pretty good deal!

Next we had a Sauvion, Rose d'anjou, 2008 of the Loire Valley.
This was a pale rose, a little lighter than the Perrin. Barb said it was "the color of Rick's bricks," meaning those on his house!

This company has been making wine since the sixth century and is now famous for rose, recommended for white meat, including poultry.

I could sum up the feeling about this wine first with Barb's "Woo Hoo!" and -- after hearing the $14.50 price, a general concensus that it wasn't that much better than the $10 Perrin!

Now we were on to the reds and the Domaine Du Vieux Chene, from Cotes Du Rhone Villages 2007.

Made in the southern France village of Cuvee des Seigneure, this was our only organic wine. All the grapes were from Seigneure, and they are fermented eight days in steel, macerated. and finally aged in cement for 15 months.

Now, this one was a deep red, very dry, with less residual sweetness -- all the sugar had turned to alcohol.
There were lots of tanins. Barb thought it was so wonderful she said, "This makes me sweat!" It is recommended for cheeses, coq au vin, and rabbit. And at $13, not a bad price.

And by that time, we were all enjoying the beauty of our wine. As I gazed into my glass, I saw the reflection of a lovely day -- and who could argue with that?

Finally, we enjoyed Bourgogne, Pinot Noir, 2005, Philippe Colim from Burgundy.

This was a brown red -- very deep. Barb said it smelled like old, wet, intriguing paper. IT was quite dry, with strawberry, cherry and many other flavors, which Dick, our expert, cheerfully acknowledged he couldn't really taste! Thank goodness.

This wasn't my favorite, and I think at $20.50/bottle, that's probably a good thing.

I learned today that all grapes have sulfites, but listing them on labels is an American requirement -- you might not see that elsewhere.

Once again, there wasn't a bad one in the bunch, even though there were some that we particularly enjoyed more than others.

Somewhere along the way, Mike said, "Look at this!" It was a great photo op!

And wasn't it? Look at the reflection -- you can see the "legs" of the wine on the sides of the reflected glass! Thanks, Mike!

After the tasting we enjoyed a variation of a French recipe, Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic. This recipe doesn't look all that tough done traditionally -- inserting garlic under the skin of a chicken, then adding in vegetables in the roasting pan. But since it was nearing the end of grilling season and an absolutely glorious day, I modified it by slipping the cloves under the skin of individual pieces -- along with an herb mix of rosemary, thyme and sage -- and grilling them. It did not disappoint. Especially with Rick and Clayton at the grill.

Everyone contributes to our gatherings -- today we had a wonderful salad (Barb makes the best dressing, too!) a cornbread to die for along with eggplant from Anne, and a delicious chocolate dessert from Meredith.

And of course, there must be party favors -- in this case, little bundles of herbs.

And of course everyone had a glorious time! Especially Anne, the birthday girl!

(If you are new to Marmelade Gypsy and enjoy wine, click on the "wine" theme word on the subject log on this blog. You'll see notes from some of our earlier tastings.

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