Tuesday, August 31, 2021

A brief respite in Manchester, VT

It’s been a while since we found ourselves somewhere we’ve never been. It’s important for me to get out of what I know, see different things, take the temperature of the world outside of my area, expand my worldview…which is hard to do when the world is shut down.

We spent a few days in Manchester, VT, in August, trolling around within an hour of that spot, taking slow drives and feasting with our eyes. MFD did a little fly fishing and we spent some time at the table of a friend and his family. We also sort of formatted our days so we spent half of them doing and half of them just being, reading, resting, swimming, lounging, talking to people. We of course spent time creeping on other people’s flowers, drinking OPC, having fabulous meals at local restaurants, perusing antique stores, and sampling the local fare. 

The cherry on top was having no service a lot of times when away from the Inn at Manchester, where we were staying. This was our first time staying in a bed & breakfast and I loved it. The old Inn building felt at home given the age of our house at the shore. There was also a newer carriage building. The staff was excellent and the grounds were relaxing and lovely. It was clean, comfortable, had great services and spaces to hang outside of your room, was in a great location, and was extremely reasonable. 
Breakfasts were 10/10 and you sat with who you were with, not like sitting at one table with people you don't know which is my fucking nightmare. Monday was scrambled eggs with spinach and Vermont cheddar with bacon, Tuesday cottage cakes with sausage, Wednesday eggs over cheesey, and Thursday was buttermilk pancakes, which I do not eat so MFD's are pictured. I swapped for eggs over medium and called it a day. You can swap for eggs any way or just yogurt and granola and fruit if you aren't up for whatever the standard is that day.

Sunday we left Philly at 12:15 (initial estimated time of departure was 10:30 but we were on MFD time and nearly started off killing each other over that LOL). The drive up was a beaut despite having raggedy andy as a copilot during my drive time. We got to Manchester at 6 after two stops. We settled in, walked to the store for shit we forgot, and were asleep early.

Monday I went to a local coffee shop, MFD met Charlie for coffee and to check out Orvis Fly Fishing (Charlie is the documentary film student who followed MFD's last campaign for a project), and I got OPC at Charlie's Coffee House, putzed around some antique shops before hitting Northshire Books and the Manchester Library. I make a point of hitting an indie bookstore and the local library when possible on vacation. 

We spent the afternoon at the pool then reading in the shade, splitting a shrimp Caesar from Mulligan’s. We had dinner outside at the historic Ye Olde Tavern complete with someone’s wheel falling off down the block as they were driving. Thankfully down the block so it didn't skitter into our seats. The food was fine? Old timey. Cool setting and we had a nice conversation with table neighbors. If I had planned ahead more I would have made reservations elsewhere but this is what we got and it was fine. We finished the night out Southern Vermont Art Center sculpture garden and getting ice cream at Stewart’s where there was grand drama because the woman could not scoop the vanilla for MFD's root beer float. Back at the Inn we sat outside in rocking chairs until the mosquitos chased us in.
Tuesday we did the Mount Equinox Skyline Drive, which was gorgeous. It's cool to see the road end on your car map. We hit the Chiselville Covered Bridge after where a crew of bikers dicked around for an eternity doing their photo shoot. 
Lunch was from Amy’s on the Road, which is a food truck in an airstream and I had a bacon, lettuce, onion ring, tomato BLORT for lunch. It was DAMN GOOD. That was immediately followed up with a visit to Mother Myrick’s for some amazing sweets as they are in the same parking lot. After a rest, MFD went fly fishing and I went to TJ Maxx to get shampoo then back to read more in the shade. I mostly shop TJMaxx and Marshalls for Homegoods and beauty so when in another location I will almost always pop in, just like I will always pop into a local library to see what they have on display.

I made my way out Arlington to Bridge at the Green, a covered bridge in Arlington that leads to Norman Rockwell's homestead and a little church and green to wander, which I did. MFD was fly fishing there with Charlie and a guide. 
When they were done, we drove down some gravel roads to Charlie's for dinner with him and his parents. An amazing setting, great food, great dog, and great people we definitely align with on so many fronts. We drove home in the dark and called it a night.
Wednesday we drove around and landed at the Vermont Country Store (like the catalog, yes), then meandered back, filling up on Americana sites along the way. I spent the afternoon at the pool reading while MFD had a meeting. We had an early dinner at Zoey’s Double Hex then lolled around luxuriating in not having to get up ever to let dogs out. I chose the restaurant for the name but the food was really fucking good and there's a little garden up top with flowers and an owl. 
Thursday we checked out after breakfast and headed to pass through covered bridges (The Burt Henry, Silk Road, and Paper Mill), see the Bennington battle monument, and secure cheese at Henry's Market in Bennington before leaving the state. GPS took us well through the backroads home complete with deer grazing on the roadside in small towns and all and that was fine with us. Of course we were sick of God, the world, and each other by the time we picked Gus up and made it home in the excessive heat. But such is the nature of road trips. I love you, but get me out of this fucking car. 

Thanks to Sarah, Mark, & cousin Harry for watching Gus and Deionni for watching Bruce, Ben, and Mae. Traveling is a deterrent because of Gus alone so dog care is essential to us.

We're already planning to pass back through Manchester with Dad and Carol to or from Maine next year (along with checking out VT further north), and I am getting my ass reservations at Silver Fork (new location in the old library) because I waited too long to get them this time, managed to get on the waiting list in case someone cancelled, then missed the damn call because I was in the pool. Pit of the trip for sure, which was easy because it was very peaky. It was a nice, chill town. And that was nice because I really winged it this time - it was only a few days and moderately last minute for us so no excessive planning which is my usual. It was cool. Most things shut down by about 8 or 9, and that suits us just fine.

That's that on that. A bit rambly because I'm out of practice of both traveling and organizing my thoughts around presenting it. Happy Tuesday!

Monday, August 30, 2021

TWTW - the last one in August

Friday I stayed in Philly to work and at lunch made breakfast burritos to freeze and after work power breakfast muffins to freeze & give away. I packed up and headed out to the shore with Bruce, Ben, and Mae by about 8 and was up until midnight reading. 
Saturday I slept in until 8:30, did the walking and the feeding of the dogs, cleaned up outside, turnover shit, made daily shower spray refills for upstairs, and MFD arrived around noon to do his stuff. The rest of the afternoon was a washout so I read and painted my nails (OPI I Eat Mainely Lobster and Essie Juicy Details), chatted with my neighbors, made a dozen hard boiled eggs in the air fryer, and sat with the animals. When the rain let up MFD and I walked down to the beach then sat on a bench on the boards people watching. We watched the Bob Ross documentary when we got back. Fuck those Bob Ross grifter people. 
Sunday I thought was going to be fine but a band of rain stayed stationary over Ocean City and we got pounded while other shore points were sunny. We flooded as bad as I've seen it yet this summer. The first photo is our corner and the second photo is from the apartment porch. So it was a reading and lounging and actually a TV watching day. We watched the first four episodes of Nine Perfect Strangers and all of Ted Lasso season one. We really liked both but Ted ugh so fucking perfect this show.
As I have put all over the internet Sunday was Gus's 16th birthday. He enjoyed many meals, a trip to dog beach, and the requisite birthday burger party which everyone attended event though Billy Cat is on a no burger diet. The excitement wore everyone out and we were all in bed by 10. 

Holding good thoughts for all of those in Ida's path. 

Heading into freaking Labor Day weekend already. Let's go.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Boost Your Bank Account With These Home Improvements

Owning a home comes with an extensive list of obligations, many of which can be exceedingly expensive to maintain. The majority of homeowners are constantly on the lookout for methods to save money when it comes to maintaining their properties. When it comes to home improvement projects, whether you are embarking on a large-scale restoration or remodeling project or are simply making a few minor tweaks here and there, there are always methods to save money in the long run. Listed below are just a few of the home improvements that you may make that will ultimately help you save money in the long run.

Image via Unsplash CC0 License

Think about installing ceiling fans

Heatwaves are becoming more frequent as a result of climate change, and we are seeking for solutions to keep ourselves cool and comfortable in our own houses. If you live in an older home that does not have air conditioning, instead of installing it, consider installing ceiling fans instead. Running air conditioning, while it feels wonderful, can be very expensive. Ceiling fans, on the other hand, may chill a space without incurring any ongoing costs beyond the initial installation. In the event that you do have and utilize air conditioning, it is a good idea to keep the phone number of a 24 Hour AC Service on hand - it is one of those things that, once you become accustomed to having, you will never want to be without!

Installing a home security system is number two on the list

One of the most important things you can do for your property is to make certain that it is safe and secure from any potential intruders or burglars. After all, you have worked hard to earn your possessions; do not let an opportunist take advantage of your situation! A good security system can also lower your home insurance premiums by an average of 20% - a significant saving. All of these preventative measures — CCTV systems, alarms, and good door and window locks — are excellent, and the more obvious they are, the better they work.

 Install solar-power systems

The environment and how eco-friendly their homes are becoming increasingly important to consumers, so if your home has sustainable credentials, this will help you tremendously when it comes time to sell your home in the future if that is something you intend to do. Even if you have no plans to relocate, it will still save you a significant amount of money in the long term. You can expect to recover the costs of installing solar panels in about two years, and in some areas, energy companies will purchase any excess electricity you generate, so you may even end up making money from your investment - not to mention the fact that you are contributing to the protection of our environment.

Initially, all of these upgrades will cost you money, but after a period of time, you will notice a significant reduction in your electricity and house insurance bills, which will result in significant savings over time. These savings can then be used to enhance the appearance of your property while you concentrate on other, more enjoyable aspects of remodeling.


This post was written with the Life According to Steph audience in mind

Friday Five - Bad and Good

This world, this week. This year? This past 18 months. This past four years. This decade? Weeks like this it feels like a pounding down and a pushing in from all sides. 

We've got terror in Afghanistan, US service people and Afghans dead and wounded. The clock ticks to get everyone out and there is literally nothing to do to help people on the ground. We can't help our troops or the people they're trying to help and we can't help the people being left behind under a regime that is intent on murder. People are quiet about what is happening, and I get it - what the fuck is there to say or do? Stating the obvious - that war is dangerous as fuck for US troops and civilians caught in the crossfire? That terrorism and extremists cause irrevocable harm in this world? That the United States spread fuck ups in the Middle East in general and Afghanistan in particular across at least four presidents and all of them and every goddamn person behind those presidents carries blame as well? I think being willing to do anything to help and having no avenue to do so is a hard thing to sit with and I think most of us are experiencing this right now and punching out at each other. The goal of every mission is obviously no US or civilian casualties but the reality of war is different. You can't get back a life. You can't return a family member to these military families now experiencing tremendous loss. You cannot restore civility to civilians who have lived and died in the shadow of this for the past 20 years and will now face the reckoning and wreckage going forward. Did anyone actually think we were going to extricate from a 20 year war that carried through four American presidents with ease? The best laid plans and not the best laid plans are all so fucking perilous in this situation - like do keyboard warriors actually think the commanders of US forces had no "plan?" Of course they had a fucking plan. Nothing is guaranteed safety. Knowing that doesn't make the peril and helplessness any easier to see happen. I hope rage energy is channeled into pushing for acceptance and aid for refugees in this country and pay increases and full and robust healthcare for U.S. troops. And not sending them to unwinnable wars in impossible situations in the first fucking place. Just because we can ask US service people to put their lives on the line because they signed up for that doesn't mean we should. Thank God they are there performing miracles to get people out but this country and its government needs to learn to not put them in these positions in the first place. And the rest of us need to realize blind patriotism and never questioning anything serves none of us, most especially the people we send out to uphold that Americanism - whether it truly be our ideals or our defense or to fight a rich man's war - in situations the rest of us would never want to find ourselves in.

On this soil there's a war between people who are over Covid or always have been and people trying to listen to science and do the right thing. This is a global issue and not an America-only issue. The bitching about masks and vaccine mandates is driving me fucking insane. You've always been required to get vaccinations to do so many things including go to school. Nurses, doctors, and hospital staff are getting drug under another wave and everyone is out here acting a fucking fool. 

Devastating flooding in the south. Insane wildfires in North America and Europe. Remember Haiti was rocked by an awful earthquake? 

And of course always everywhere people are hungry or without resources and opportunities, kids with no school supplies or food or love, people with no housing, a healthcare system that is serving no one, people crushed under systemic racism and misogyny, on and on and on within these borders and outside of them. 

Then your normal life shit work and bills and responsibilities and interpersonal shit and illness or loss or grief or rage or crumbs on the counter or dog shit on the floor. The world keeps turning within us and without us. 

Having the privilege to keep a good thought for everyone in danger and suffering from anything, anywhere, while stepping out from the Death Star turning looks like this for me today:

1. We've got Billy unbothered. It's like he's always been here. We're pretty good at integrating animals by now and it appears that that extends to cats. 

2. This book is violent and devastating and beautiful. Trigger warnings for rape and violence but if you can do it, it's worth it. It's sitting in my stomach and lodged in my throat.

3. Back to the shore tonight, last weekly guests this week. I'll be there until the Wednesday after Labor Day. I have one more weekend check in and I'm hoping this is the last year for that. We'll see. 
4. Deconstructed hamburgers always and forever.

5. Building out my office gallery wall some more with Goodfellas, 90210, Stand By Me, and Vision Quest art. I finally got a cork board and wall mounted paper holder up. Thanks to Dad for hanging. 

I hope you take a breath this weekend, have a nap, put the phone down, go outside, read a book, go for a drive, recharge yourself. Step gently in this world. Do something small to help someone who needs it. Take care of yourself so we can take care of each other. 

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Thursday Thoughts - you walk cool but darling can you walk the line

1. When the morning light hits just right
2. Current notebook. If it speaks to you, you can find it on Society6.

3. National Dog Day is today, August 26, and also every day. Shots of mine from this week.
4. Their cat returned late last night and they were very pleased. This morning Billy shredded some toilet paper and explored the entire house and I am just upstairs in my office ignoring it. There are about 2034803480348 zillion places for that cat to get into and/or break. He can do both the basement stairs (carpeted) and the stairs to go to the top floor (not carpeted ) so that's good. He is really interested in the cords coming down from our bedside lamps, which is not so good.

5. Eating well this week with minimal effort on my part. It's nice to have more people in the house to cook LOL. Salmon, salad, and potatoes on Monday. Dad picked up sushi on the way home Tuesday. Wednesday salad and burgers. Tonight leftovers. 

6. Out here killing it this week sticking to regular work hours, eating meals at the table, reading, getting all personal errands done, ticking my work to do lists. Even though I'm vaccinated I'm back to mask wearing inside everywhere and have been for about a month now and hope you are as well. Stay safe out there friends! 
7. That Back to School jawn. 

8. Everyone will surely be learning how to find America on the global map in the Time of Corona. In many ways this feels like an impossible, constantly chafing world right now.

9. Reminder: via

10. Ecards: 

What appears beyond the hyphen in Thursday Thoughts titles is what I'm listening to or most recently heard when I'm starting this - this week is The Ties That Bind by Bruce Springsteen off The River album. The Born to Run album turned 46 years old yesterday.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Important Things to Remember When Planning Your Wedding

Getting married is exciting, but the wedding itself might feel somewhat overwhelming when you have a never-ending to-do list. There are so many details to consider and arrange for the day to go precisely as planned. However, if you are organized and calm, and if you remember that, no matter what else happens, the goal is to end up married to your spouse, it’s not as difficult as it might seem. Read on for some good places to start to get the ball rolling and to ensure that the most crucial elements of your wedding are in place. 

The Budget

Before you can do anything for your wedding, anything at all, you must first establish a reasonable, sensible budget. It's pointless to rush off and get excited about all the potential wedding ideas out there if your budget doesn't allow for them, and it's also pointless to restrict yourself if your budget allows for some more costly things to be included. 

Think about how much you can spend and attempt to budget for each individual aspect of the wedding, such as the dress, the cake, the venue, and so on. This will make it much simpler for you to keep control. One general budget isn’t bad, but it’s better to break it down. 

The Dress

The wedding dress is the single most essential item of clothing you will buy for your wedding. It’s what people are looking forward to seeing and will remember for years to come. Making an appointment to talk with an adviser at a wedding dress shop is the ideal way to start your search for the right gown. Try on as many dresses as you can to figure out your favorite style and what looks best on you. Remember to start with the dress with the best silhouette for you and then concentrate on the details. Do you like lace? Ruffles? A plain gown? Flowers? There will be a dress that suits you and your style, but start looking early as it could take some time to find. 

The Venue

Choosing a location for your wedding could be one of the most challenging jobs in the planning process, particularly if the bride and groom have opposing views. Visit a range of venues to see what they have to offer and to get a sense of how much you will need to spend; your budget will play a big role in choosing where you will have your wedding. 

There are options ranging from outdoor wedding venues to more formal indoor spots. You could have a church wedding with a separate reception site, or you can have everything and everyone in one location, including expert wedding bartenders. Knowing how many guests you want to invite to your wedding can also help you select your venue since some can only accommodate a certain number of people.


Good wedding photographers are often booked months in advance, so if you want a professional to capture pictures of your special day, you should put a meeting with them at the top of your to-do list. It's a fantastic idea to start your search online since you can get a sense of their shooting style and discover two or three photographers with whom you would want to speak. It’s critical that you meet with them in person after you have narrowed down your search. You must like the photographer if you want to spend your whole wedding day with them.


This post was written with the Life According to Steph audience in mind

Monday, August 23, 2021

TWTW - Cruising into my favorite part of summer

Friday I worked the morning at home and the afternoon at the shore. I had to go to ACME to exchange the five gallon water jugs and can I say I hate running errands Friday at the shore. Everyone is in a hot ass hurry to get their weekends all set. I took a walk down to the beach after work and when I came off I restocked my soap from LEH and popcorn from Johnson's and picked up a hoagie from Angelo's. MFD and his niece Maddi arrived around 10 with the old dogs and the kitten for Billy's first time at the shore. That was a process getting shit settled so we were up until close to 1. 
Saturday I was up walking and feeding dogs by 5:40. We did turnover, best guests leaving so it was easy, and Maddi and I did some shopping on Asbury Ave. before the rains came. I painted my nails (no pic here but OPI Now Museum, Now You Don't and Essie Mochachino) and even my busted up toes - first time having polish on in many weeks. Rains from Henri passing by off-shore killed the rest of the day. I finished a book and read another. 
Sunday I was thinking the day would be a wash but it turned out to be beautiful. Maddi and I hit the beach, MFD ran errands and then they hit the boards while I showered, packed up, ran to the library, and headed home with Maddi and the four dogs. Billy stayed down with MFD to get a break from Bruce's overbearing love. Separation breaks are harder to enforce in what is basically the size of a larger hotel room. Billy is very happy with all of his under the bed hiding places in our apartment though. I dropped Maddi off and took the then screaming dogs home. Unpacked, opened shore shipments, got those boxes out to recycle, ate leftover pizza, hung out with my dad, did laundry, read, and slept in the basement with Gus.

Why is it my favorite part of summer? After this weekend, there's only one more Saturday turnover at the shore. Then I clean up after a Friday checkout and we have a Wednesday after Labor Day check in then just us and family and friends. 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Thursday Thoughts - You can look inside another world, you get to talk to a pretty girl

1. The big news of the week in this house is the surprise to me arrival of Billy Hicks. I wanted a cat and said as much last September. MFD said no. Tuesday night close to 9 pm him and his niece came in and were like here is your cat. Billy is mostly sequestered in the office but I'm not sure for how much longer. He is super curious and is not fazed one iota by the dogs. They are obsessed with him but are only allowed near him in supervised situations even though he seems intent on being one of the dogs. He has spent this morning playing with Ben and his spring toys Aubrey brought over. Bruce is out of his mind enamored so has to be separated from time to time now. Mae is fangirling. Gus does not know we have a cat. However the first night Bruce and Ben were furious with me and would only sit with Carol. My Dad and Carol are living with us right now as their house gets finished in what is now Animal House LOL. Billy Hicks will be a member of the traveling band and heads to the shore for the first time this weekend. 
2. And he is of course named not after Billy Hicks the human comedian but after Billy Hicks who led the band Billy Hixx and The New Breed in St. Elmo's Fire. MFD is convinced it is Billy Hixx but that is just the band name. The more you know, friends. 
3.Otherwise in Animal House:

4. This new family member arrived on the eve of my first time in the office in a month. Great timing. I went in because I had to go to the dentist and looped in acupuncture too in the afternoon. I do not miss the commute.

5. I do miss the interest of downtown and all the things you can see right outside of the office building: how quickly the weather changes can be measured in Comcast towers. A random parade down the street in the middle of the day.
6. I miss the color and art and movement of downtown.
7. What's the best season? Tomato season. Thanks to my aunt Maria and to Fran & Denny via my dad & Carol for the goods this week.
8. This world. Places to donate to or share if you do not have the resources at this time in this post.

9. Reminder:
10. Ecards: 

What appears beyond the hyphen in Thursday Thoughts titles is what I'm listening to or most recently heard when I'm starting this - this week is She's a Beauty by The Tubes

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