Sunday, July 6, 2014

Hot Time - Summer in the City - Not!

Still no closer to sidewalks, on a permanent basis. We've visited a few...lately in Vermont and Massachusetts, but only to slide into town and slide right back out, same day!

I have been keeping a little busy, reframing some art work and painting a bit...until I get back into the rhythm of writing more frequently, here are a few pieces of art work that have found their way out of storage and into new mats and frames:

Friday, January 10, 2014

Resolving Resolutions

I know...I said I would write more last year.  Same resolution this year.  To get things started, my 2013 Christmas newsletter.  Figure this will give me some time to put together my next blog, next week!  I resolve to promise!

Cunningham Christmas Chronicle 2013!

“I’m all a-twitter about the holidays,” I exclaimed as I poured the last drop out of the bottle of Scotch I got for Christmas last year (okay, I bought it Tuesday, but it’s been almost four days!).

“Dad,” sighed my youngest son, in that excruciating drone he gets when he’s exasperated with his ‘old time’ parents, “You can’t twitter.  You don’t have a cell phone.  I keep telling you to get one.  It would be so much better.  You can hook up with anyone wherever you are, like when you were standing outside of your car the other day when the door lock was frozen and you couldn’t get in.  Don’t you see?  Maybe you should get one for Christmas!”

I informed him, “I said ‘a-twitter,’ not Twitter,” while peering over my glasses and my glass! “And I can see.”  He evidently mistook the dirty glass lenses as a sign of aging or perhaps spied a glazed stare (possible alcohol influence here).  “And, besides,” I continued, “Don’t going saying that I’m hooking up with anyone in front of your mother.  You’ll put ideas into her head and I don’t think she’s bought my Christmas present, yet.”

I keep tipping the Scotch bottle upside down, hoping to get the vapors to condense and a bit more drips into my glass.   ‘You know how your mother feels about cell phones.  We’re holding out to prove a point.  When all of those satellites come crashing down like they said they would on the Science Channel, they’ll be useless.”

He shakes his head, with the look that says, ‘I can’t believe I have parents!’  He uses his low, instructive voice, “A twitter is not a thing.  It’s something you do.  It’s a way to talk to people without talking to them.”  He continued, “And, if I did say anything to Mom, she wouldn’t remember it anyway (another story here).”

“Oh,” I replied, “Like when I ask you to bring in wood and you walk away, like talking without the words meaning anything?”

His whole body goes up and down in one big sigh.  He starts to walk away, as I head for the top cupboard in search of that brandy I’m using to soak the annual holiday fruit cake, and he adds, “And those satellites aren’t coming down for another hundred years and you’ll be dead by then.”

I add, “Two things!  By not eating any of my 92 dozen Christmas cookies I made last year, I got my cholesterol down to 12.  I might be around for another two hundred years, so good luck with that thought if you’re sticking around here waiting for the house, and I have a phone with wires that go into the wall and when the power goes out I can still call them, if I wanted to link up with anybody.”

The middle son enters the kitchen at that point.  He quips, “It’s LinkedIn.”  I look at him, “What’s linked in?”  The youngest moans, “Oh no, here we go again.  I’m going to go bring some wood in.”  He leaves the room.

“What,” asks the middle son, “You’re on LinkedIn.”   I reply, “I know. I just needed him to go get some wood.” 

I’m up to my neck peering into the cupboard, searching for my holiday beverage backups, adding, “It’s all about communication processes.  The words aren’t important, it’s like playing billiards. Bounce it off one, the other reacts!”  Middle son shrugs his shoulders and walks away. Got rid of him, too! 

Now I have the downstairs to myself!  I can make a list of all of the things that I, once again, don’t have ready for the holidays.  I could sure use some help, I think, but I just insured that both would stay out of sight for about four hours. 

The holidays are a time of joy. You can be ‘a-twitter’ about them, which I happened to be saying out loud, as my wife returned from another day at the hospital.  (I have to talk to myself sometimes so I have someone sane to talk to…it has nothing to do with imbibing). 

“What did you call me,” she asks?  “What,” ask I?  “You said I was a twit,” she exclaimed.  “Did not,” say I, “I said ‘a-twitter, you know, like all excited and giddy.”

“A biddy,” she’s getting worked up now, “Who are you calling a biddy?”  Evidently, hearing tests aren’t covered under the new Affordable Health Care Act.

I change lanes quickly, “How about a drink?”  She responds, “Not now, maybe later.”  “No,” I add, “I wasn’t asking you if you wanted one, I want to know if you know if there’s anything in the house for me to have a drink.”  She just walks away.  

Alone, again.  Another mission accomplished.  And I didn’t have to use a cell phone.You see, the holidays are about communicating.  Some of us still write to people, some call, some send emails, others text and twitter and tweet and twerk (not sure about that last one).  

What are we communicating?  I really don’t know. Seems it should be good will, and good wishes and generating warm and friendly feelings and hopefully, something that lasts longer than a quick tweet.  A personal greeting might be nice, you know a voice, a person.

Just then the youngest comes racing back upstairs, noting that a truck veered off the road in town and knocked out all of he power and took down the phone lines.  Our holiday lights went out in a flash, the computer dived into oblivion, and now my land line is dead.

“How did you hear about that,” I asked?  “I got a tweet,” he replied.  “Gimme that thing,” I said as I grabbed his cell phone from his hands, “I need to call the liquor store to see if they lost power.”  Some things at holiday time are just that important.

And, until those satellites come down, maybe I do need something else for Christmas???

Monday, June 24, 2013

Le Bon Trottoir à La Belle Vie

In case you've been wondering where I've been, as there has been a deficit of postings, I've been out searching for sidewalks!

Since my last posting, my feet have sampled a number of sidewalks and I have to say that the more I hit the pavement the more I crave.

I've put on a few miles walking on concrete, asphalt, cobblestone, and more over the past five months.  Can't say that I prefer one over the other, as they all seem to work by getting me from one place to another.  And, of course, as my wife tells me, I can't complain about any sidewalk because all that she seems to hear from me (her story) is that I want to walk out our front door and be able to connect feet to sidewalk and get somewhere, anywhere!

May seem that I'm fickle, but not entirely.  At times, sidewalks lead to places that one has been to before or one you need to go to; other times, they take you to places that are new to your experience and give all the credit in the world to your desire to try out a new-to-you sidewalk. There is a method to my sidewalk madness...they connect you to new people and new places.

Last month, they connected us to Watkins Glen.

My wife wanted to escape town for a few days and she announced, "I have a great sidewalk to show you!"  Always up for a trip that involves a path to somewhere, I packed quickly and happily and was soon in the car to head west.  It's a four hour trip from our non-side-walked home, but worth it for the scenery, the lure of sidewalks and for something else that I knew was in the area, wineries!

What the wife hadn't told me is that the sidewalk she had in mind to visit was of the vertical kind.  She drove us to the Watkins Glen State Park.  There, one is treated to a two mile hike...up!

Well, one way is up.  To get back to the car you get to walk down!

Carved out by water, for probably more than a few years, a gorge ascends between 200 foot cliffs and features a stream that descends 400 feet.   They advertise no less than 19 waterfalls, and you get to run under and around some of them as you make your way up 800 steps...yes, 800.  How do I know that?  I counted every single one of them.

You should check out their site here:

Worth the trip if you like waterfalls, and gorges, and getting spit on by mother nature, but more so because it's just a short drive to Penn Yan.

And, what's in Penn Yan do you say?


And stores and shops and a rail trail that goes between a couple of those Finger Lakes that are surrounded by wineries.  Over one hundred of them.  More wineries than we could do in one day, turns out.  We tried, well that's another blog.

The best thing about Penn Yan is where we stayed.

I'm fairly certain that my wife used the lure of sidewalks to get me to a B&B that she had visited a couple of years back. She and a college roommate had done a winery and yarn trip (yet another blog) and stayed at a place about which she raved upon her return.

She talked up the wineries (a favorite of mine), the towns (ergo sidewalks), and some good restaurants, and then said, "Let's stay at this place I went to."  She described it as a pretty Victorian House, run by a nice couple, and they make a great breakfast, and you get to talk to people (another fact...sidewalk deprived folks don't have many people to walk to and talk to) and "it has a sidewalk that leads you to town and to stores and to restaurants, just like where you want to live."

I'm not hard to please, really...give me a sidewalk and I'm off.

We did the steps (did I mention 800 of them?), lunch in town, a winery or two (okay, five of them), and then landed in Penn Yan at the aforementioned B&B, "La Belle Vie."

My wife was a little off in her description of the inn.  Pretty?  It was gorgeous.  Victorian?  Highly so, and Italianate...impeccable inside and out.  And, a wonderfully hospitable couple, Laurel and Llewellyn, greeted us in the driveway as we arrived and took care of us as though we were many-times-returning friends.

I've been in the hotel business for over 35 years and have always said, "Clean room, good food and good service and I'm set."  Well, the proprietors of "La Belle Vie" have set a new standard for me.

I've also stayed in a few B&Bs in my day, but have never felt the warmth of the owners such as here and the place was spotless.  And the, the breakfast...amazing!!!  I don't think I've had a better breakfast anywhere, ever.

Laurel cooks, Llewellyn serves and you don't want it to stop.  The scones and the pancakes were beyond belief.  And, perhaps it's because Llewellyn waits on you (have you ever seen that at a B&B?), the eggs were the best I ever had.  Coffee?  Served.  Breakfast?  Served.  Are you sure you're done?  How about seconds?  Of course!  And this is a B&B.  In another such place you might find a buffet laid out with muffins and boxed cereal, without a person in sight, with signs, "help yourself."  Not here.

I have to mention the menu and I don't want to get this wrong, but I think the pancakes were Lemon Ricotta.  And, Lemon scones...I didn't want to leave the table.  This reminds me to ask for the recipe, though I doubt they'd taste as good without the company of Laurel and Llewellyn.

Once the breakfast is served, with Llewellyn at your beckon call, Laurel joins all in the Dining Room (we were one of three couples that day), and great conversation ensues.  I all but forgot about sidewalks!

Our bedroom at "La Belle Vie"  The Macintosh Room
The whole place is about relaxation and comfort and the proprietors make everything happen in a gentle and relaxed fashion...just really nice.

Now, I like to visit wineries, and I like to go to towns that have sidewalks, such as Penn Yan, and really just enjoy traveling to different places to see the sites, and the places we stay are usually the means to the end, but you need to know that I would make a trip back to the Finger Lakes just to stay at "La Belle Vie." 

You have to check them out, here's their link:

The next installment of my blog is in the works, so don't fret.  We did visit about twenty wineries and have made a few other trips over the past few months, so more to come soon.  But first, I must get that recipe from Laurel and Llewellyn at "La Belle Vie," so that "ma vie sera mieux."

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Making A List, Checking It At Least Twice!

I forgot to mention, in my last post, that I'm also managing the Advent calendar by myself this year.  Usually, we take turns adding ornaments, but it's just too much hassle each day trying to get everyone to appreciate the holiday spirit and be part of the festivities for 25 days straight.  Works better when I can offer holiday "spirits," to get chores done, and that just doesn't seem right at 8:00 a.m.

We have an advent calendar that my mother made for the boys when they were little.  It's sort of like the one pictured here, but a little worn and some of the ornaments have broken a bit.  And, each ornament has a safety pin that holds it to the tree.  In an attempt to make it look "clean," I pin from the back.  A nicer look, but as of day 20, today, I have pricked my finger at least 20 times trying to get the darned things attached to the calendar.  "Sigh," it's tradition. I would have taken a picture of ours, but the camera batteries died after it was left on all night.  I went to use the battery charger.  That had burnt out, due to whatever short has taken place in the outside lights.

Speaking of the outside lights, I did manage to take the whole light unit apart only to find that it's just fine...must be something with one of the strings.  I was able to put a red light bulb in the unit, so at least we have some light at the entrance and left the strings unplugged, until I can get time to check them out.  I had forgotten the reference of a red light at the entrance to some.  I find that a number of cars slow down as they go by the house; several police vehicles included, who seem to peer diligently as they pass.

Anyway, here's what the house looks like now, on the left (sort of).  Festive, right?  Hopefully, we'll have some bright, multi-colored, lights going again soon.

The Christmas cards, you ask!

Yes, we did a marathon writing and signing, trying to personalize each card, and then addressed, stuffed with our annual newsletter, licked shut, stamped, and sticking a seasonal seal on the back.  Several cards had to be reopened, as by the time we got around to doing some of the "extra" work with each card, we forgot who to address them to.

But here they are, ready to be mailed.  The wife loves mail!

Hmmmm...guess I forgot that step...oh well, there's always tomorrow.  Does anyone know if the Post Office is guaranteeing next day delivery for regular mail?

Tomorrow is an important day.  First day of winter, Mayan collapse day, shortest day of the year, and the day I take cookies to work.  That marathon "wrapping of the cookies" took place last night.  Last Sunday, I made the cookie dough.  Monday, I rolled it all out and using my Christmas cookie cutters, I cut and baked 97 dozen cookies.  Yep, 1164 cookies that made it to the oven...probably lost another dozen in process, but it is a family Christmas record.  Took a breather for a couple of days to go to work (to pay for all of this and more) and then last night started the decorating process.

All of the cookies get laid out on tables, I mix the icing, bag it, squeeze it, try to make some sort of lines on each that looks like something.  Using red and green frosting helps...solves about 90% of the holiday guessing.  Is that a Christmas cookie?  It's red and green...must be.  I work off the abstract method of icing; sort of follow the lines, squiggle here and there...makes for a quick them all done inside of four hours.

Here are some pictures of that event.

Tonight, I wrapped cookies by the dozen in baggies and tied with string to take to work as gifts.  I will sit in front of each recipient and make sure they eat them.

After all of the hard work I put into them, I want to be sure they enjoy them, as I stare at them intently and keep asking them if they like them!

It's really not a holiday without some pressure, you know.

Four days before the eve and I'm trying to think what else needs to be done.  If I get those cards out and fix those lights...oh yeah, the tree!  We got it up off the street and into the house and it's standing up!!!  I have an hour or so before bedtime tonight, maybe I can get some lights on it (if I can find them and they still work!).

We are actually planning on decorating it by week's end.  We have to plan to do it, or come Tuesday why bother?  I could just drag it out on the deck, at that point, and hang bird seed bells from it and let nature take it's course...there's a thought.

Still, something missing.

Shopping!!!  I guess there are folks here who are expecting gifts.  Bummer.

You see, that's one thing that's wrong with Christmas.  People expect me to buy them gifts.  Isn't it better to give than receive?  I am ready, willing and able to receive to make the holiday more meaningful for others who want to give and who will benefit from that process.

Okay, guess the stores will be open 24/7, for the next few days, and I do have one day off between now and the holiday.  I'm sure I can find that one perfect gift for each person inside of eight hours.  Haven't failed yet (or at least I haven't been told that I have) over all the years.

Guess I should go attend to something on what is now a long list of need to do!  Might have two of those checked off???

 I'll let you know how things work out in a few days.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2012

How Many Days 'till Christmas?

We always thought, once the boys grew up, that we'd nail this holiday thing and have Christmas wrapped and ready by Thanksgiving and spend the month of December checking out holiday offerings at wineries and touring historic homes, all decked out for the season!

As of yesterday, here's our tree!

As you can see, we cut it down ourselves.  As you can also see, it fell of the car on the way home from the tree farm.  Somehow, the seventeen feet of rope I used, and the knots I learned in Boy Scouts, didn't make one bit of difference regarding the delivery.

You'll also notice that we don't have any snow.  The hopes of a white Christmas are in the hands of the weatherman.  At least it wasn't muddy curb-side, so I could just drag the holiday icon up the drive to the house.  Maybe tomorrow I'll get to that.

Homemade Christmas cookies are a tradition at our house and, as I usually make scores of them, I did think to buy the ingredients.  I put together about two dozen eggs, five pounds of butter, a couple of bottles of vanilla, and a nice bottle of Shiraz to get the project going...the Shiraz is to fortify me.

Of course, with work and chores around the house, including the now-flickering lights I strung on the front of the house which means a trip to the hardware store to replace the fixture so we can enjoy the aforementioned lights, I didn't get to far with the cookies.

Here's a picture of where they are now:

Last year, I made 72 dozen cookies and my son helped decorate them.

As you can see, I've only mixed a bit of what I intended to and just now am remembering that I didn't buy anything for decorations.

I'll get around to it soon, but first we have to get those Christmas cards going, as many have to be mailed to get to out of state addresses and with today being the busiest day of the United States Postal Service, if I don't hurry, I may get them there just as the postal clerks decide that it's time for their coffee break.

We did buy the cards and the stamps.  And, we have all sorts of address labels that we collect from about thirty different charities during the year.  Some have my name, some my wife's.  Once, a relative got a card from us with the wife label. Her first thought was that we divorced, as only her name appeared on the return address section.  My wife says it will take a lot more than the price of a postage stamp for me to get single again!

I'm guessing you want to see how far along I am with the they are:

As I look at them, I'm guessing I should try to find the envelopes..I know that they came with them. Of course, I also need our address book...we work very hard to keep that in shape so that we have every one's address right at our fingertips.  It's in this pile somewhere....

Right after I get all of that done, I'll start some shopping and then get down to the task of wrapping everything.  Note to self: hope wrapping paper isn't with the address book.

Maybe when the kids were small we had to get things done in a more timely fashion, as there were school concerts, and holiday parties for the Scouts, and church and family visits, and kids getting sick just before you head out the door.  These days we don't have all of that stuff and we probably think we got all that time back and can wait until closer to the holiday to start.  Strange thing...doesn't work.

Well, one more week to go and I'm sure we'll pull off a Christmas actually having Christmas ready for Christmas.  I'll keep you posted over the next six days on how this goes...just checked, I did manage to remember to lay in some refreshments for the holiday and to provide me support as I gear up for the fest....

Now, where did I put that corkscrew???

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Leaves, Leaves, Everywhere...

In the words of Carl Sagan, as you look across our yard, you'll see "billions and billions" of leaves during the Fall season.

Mostly, to start off with, it's the Maple, Birch and nut trees that drop their leaves around this time of year.

 Out back there are some Sassafras trees and small bushes that toss their leaves around with abandon.

The Pine trees way out back start pitching their cones in later summer, as the Oak trees start dropping those acorns, and it gets harder and harder to walk across the lawn without slipping and sliding on the nuts and cones.

Later in the season, seemingly the minute I've raked up the last leaf on the lawn, the Oaks start dropping their leaves.

Many hang on until the first snow so that I'm greeted in the Spring with the same activity...rake and toss, rake and toss.

One other use for the annual pile of soon-to-decay flora is to paint pictures with them.

So, here I present this year's Fall Collection.

Take a minute to write back and let me know what you think about them.

The ones I get onto paper will last long into the winter...maybe even for a bunch of years.

By hitting the word "comments" at the bottom of this post you can let me know your favorites or ask me questions, such as, "Don't you have anything better to do?"

 I have about 15 paintings represented here.

They are all watercolors, using just three primary, yellow and blue.

 Sometimes they come out on the first try.

Sometimes, they don't work at all and I end up throwing away a whole bunch of "mistakes."

Well, I don't actually get rid of them...they go into a big pile downstairs that my wife looks at saying, "Can't you just throw these away?"

My response is that I might see something in the painting later on that I'll like...can't take the chance of getting rid of a masterpiece!

 After about 15 years of painting these things, I do have quite the stash of saved mistakes.

Perhaps, someday, when historians reconstruct my studio to educate future artists they'll think they stumbled upon art treasures...might make a few bucks then!

Here and there you'll see:

Oak to the left.

Maple to the right.

Another Oak below to the left....

 And, another Oak here to the right.

My wife came up with the idea for the "Ghost Leaves"  below.

They take over our house just before Halloween...a fun leaf to have hanging around.  Maybe a little bit scary?

 Dark and spooky?



                   A ghost, aghast?

The most scary thing of all?  I just looked out the window and another million leaves just dropped....looks like I've got a lot of painting to do!