Saturday, June 30, 2012

Summer On My Plate

Earlier this week, we decided to make a visit to a local business that has been a landmark in this area for many years.    It is easy to know when you've gotten there because of the huge Jolly Green Giant that stands guard over the building and its contents.    Known far and wide as Bailey's Farmer's Market, all the locals depend heavily on the things they sell all year round from the Christmas trees that they bring in every November to the huge pallets of collard greens and sweet potatoes and big cardboard boxes filled to the brim with a variety of watermelons just begging to be iced and then sliced into big, pink grins of pure summer enjoyment.  

But the quintessential thing that people come to Bailey's to buy in the summer are on the flat tables overflowing with shelled field peas and speckled butter beans.   Sure, they sell 'em in the shell and many of their customers would have it no other way but to buy them in the shell and spend the hours it takes to shell a huge bag of peas or butter beans to have for supper that night or to "put up" for later on when the season for growing them is long gone.    The difference between buying them shelled, ready for the pot and buying them in the shell that means hours of sitting, shelling and dealing with sore fingers for days is not insignificant.  I picked up that scoop and filled my bag without hesitation with the tempting beauties that were pot ready, even if they cost a lot more.    Larry opted for a pound of the ones in the shell, just to see how much we'd get if we shelled 'em ourselves and saved a bundle over the ones that Bailey's kindly shelled for us.  

Once inside their fruit and vegetable stand most people are unable to resist buying other things so enticingly displayed and begging to be placed in the brown paper bags they have conveniently placed all around the bins.    So it was that we happened to also buy some yellow squash, vine ripe tomatoes, Georgia peaches, jalapenos and pablano peppers, Japanese Eggplant and two varieties of sweet potatoes.   Falling under their spell is not easy to resist and we were not the only ones milling around, picking and pawing over the fresh veggies destined to be on many dinner plates that night.   

Obviously we couldn't cook all of the things we bought in one day so we have spread out our wealth throughout this week, enjoying and discussing the merits of each thing that showed up on our plates.    Yesterday I prepared a large pot of the Zipper Peas combined with Pink Eyed Purple Hull peas and served them over rice.   We still had a large hunk of corn bread from a previous meal that included some of those Speckled Butter Beans that found their way into my sack.    I was looking for something else to include with our peas and cornbread when I spied a couple of beautiful specimens of tomatoes sitting on the counter---waiting their turn to be on the menu.    So I sliced them into thick and thin slices.   People tend to come from one of the two schools of thought on the proper slicing of a tomato:   A. It should be sliced into a nice, thick slab or B. God forbid you cut it thick and instead make it as thin as possible, requiring a razor sharp knife to get the deed done correctly.    Since we have one of each in our household, we get both styles---thick and thin slices.

As I sat down and stared at my plate I couldn't decide where to start first but ended up taking a mouthful of the peas and rice.    For a moment, I thought I might swoon.    It was so good, so flavorful and delicious I was instantly struck with how iconic it was for most of my youth, having spent the majority of that time growing up in Mississippi.   Peas and cornbread are standard fare in the South during the summer.   You just couldn't escape having that if you grew up in Mississippi during the 50s and 60s.    I suspect it may still be that way, but for sure that's how it was back then.  

And then I realized that I had Summer On My Plate.    For a few moments, I was transported back in time ---- a time so far away that you'd think the memory would have faded into infinity.   But no.   It was still there, embedded like all the other memories of that time.    On our recent camping trip with the grandkids, they were begging me to tell story after story about when I was a kid.    And the stories just kept coming and the more I told, the more they wanted to hear.     I never got to this one but this is one that maybe I'll get around to telling them on the next trip.

Every summer between the ages of about 9 until I was a teen ager, my sister, Ginny and I spent with my older sister, Charlotte, her husband, Wilson and my niece, Rebecca.    It was not unusual for us to spend a big part of the summer with them, which was just fine with us because life was never dull with them and besides, we absolutely adored our older sister and Rebecca was our very own Little Princess.  Wilson was studying to be an ordained minister and spent several years in Kentucky at seminary and later came back to Mississippi to begin his career as a United Methodist Minister.    Only back then he was mainly called Brother Brent.   

All of the churches he served tended to be way out in the country, down dusty roads, back in the woods and getting there usually entailed a long ride in a hot, un-air conditioned car.   Once you got there the church had all the windows slightly open and a fan would be humming in the background.    Occasionally,  a wasp would come in during the middle of the service adding a new reason for praying earnestly during the morning prayer.   

Every summer, along with Vacation Bible School, churches had a Revival Service that might last for one week and once in a while up to two weeks.  It was the common practice to invite a guest preacher to come in to do the nightly preachin' and if their budget could stand it, they would bring in an Evangelist to be their guest speaker.    Wilson was sometimes invited to go to other churches while another preacher might come to his church to preach.   When Wilson went to preach a revival it always included all of us.....Charlotte, Rebecca, Ginny and me.    We'd load up the car, drive to the church and get treated like honored guests wherever we went.  

One thing about that time---churches certainly couldn't afford to pay their guest speaker a lot of money, but they sure could feed us.     Since it was summer the bounty coming in from their gardens was plentiful.     And since it was the PREACHER coming to their house to eat, you can bet they pulled out all the stops to present a meal fit for a king.    It was not unusual to have three or four kinds of meat at one meal:  fried chicken, ham, pork chops and roast beef.    Then there were the vegetables.   Oh my word!    Peas, butter beans, fresh greens, squash, mashed potatoes (the real kind, not something out of a plastic bowl and microwaved), string beans, fresh tomatoes.    It truly was overwhelming to see the vast array that would be put on the table for us.    And that certainly didn't include the desserts that were awaiting us.     Those things would take up a table all by themselves.   

And so it went summer after summer.    And if we weren't attending a revival, we were going to Dinner on the Grounds.    You have not lived until you have been to a true "Dinner on the Grounds" in rural Mississippi in the summer time.    Every cook in the county tries to out-do every other cook and the sight of a long row of banquet size tables with dish after dish is enough to make a strong person buckle under the pressure.    No short cuts, no Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets or deli containers of potato salad there.   The feast would start shortly after church services ended for the morning and would go on long into the afternoon.     Desserts would come out later on and it's for sure there would be cakes, banana pudding, pies and a variety of congealed (Jell-o) salads in every color of the rainbow.   

Later on there might be singing.    Many of the churches Wilson served had musicians who would form into groups to sing gospel songs familiar to all who heard them.     They would pound out the tunes on an old upright piano, that was only slightly out of tune and frequently had a key or two that would stick.    Sometimes there would be someone who played a fiddle or guitar.    But mostly it was the piano and a trio or quartet of singers, accompanied by others in the congregation who wanted to sing along to the familiar and comforting tunes.    

As the afternoon faded into sunset, the preacher (Wilson or invited guest) would take the to the pulpit once again to bring a message to the (usually) packed pews.    Once I remember Wilson had invited his Uncle Jimmy to preach a revival.    He and his wife, Aunt Kitty, were true Missionaries and had been to all sorts of interesting and far lands doing their missionary work.    Uncle Jimmy was what some people would call a "Fire and Brimstone" preacher since he often preached on the Book of Revelations.    When he got finished with a sermon, you KNEW you had been preached to by a master since he usually had his audience in the palm of his hands when he got to the end.    He could also scare the living life out of you if you were young and impressionable, like I was.    If the hair on the back of your neck was not raised when he preached, you weren't listening to him.   

And this is how many of my summers were spent when I was a kid.    Funny how a plate of peas and cornbread could bring all that back in one bite.    Those memories of my life are from a time long ago and so so far away.    My life was really simple then, as was the life of many people in my life.     I think the reason that we tend to gravitate back to things from long ago is that they are familiar and in some ways comforting. 

You see most of the people in the story I've related to you are gone now.    Charlotte in 2000, Ginny in 2003 and Wilson in 2010.     Rebecca and I often say to each other, "We're all we've got left."   That's not quite true but we each know what we mean when we say that.    We are the only ones left who hold the memories of that time in our lives like a king holds his treasured jewels.    In some magical sort of way, when I go back in time and relive those memories, it brings those dear ones back to me for a little while.    I miss them so much and it comforts me to have those great stories about shelling and eating butter beans, bouncing down dusty roads on the way to a tiny church in the distance and walking out into a moonlit night with the heavy scent of honeysuckle in the air.   It brings them alive once more and for a little while I am thirteen again when life was simple and easy.  

So if you have a Farmer's Market in your town or maybe even have a garden spot in your backyard, enjoy the summer bounty.    You never know where that bowl of butter beans and zipper peas will take you.    Maybe somewhere special, magical and comforting.

Happy Trails,


Friday, June 29, 2012

Eat Good Food While You Camp Without Spending All of Your Time at the Stove

Anyone who has ever gone camping knows that preparing and providing good food that is not a chore to make can be a real challenge.    I remember going camping once in my youth where the person planning our meals (it was a church youth group retreat) thought that having sandwiches for the entire long weekend was a good idea.   The adult chaperons and some of the kids were less than enthusiastic about that menu.   :( 

The possibilities for preparing tasty food while camping is infinitely easier today with the abundance of appliances that can be brought to the camp site.    Most campgrounds have electrical service and outdoor kitchens for their campers to use.     Our campers (a pop-up and a 31' travel trailer) both are equipped with propane stoves and the travel trailer has a combination 3 burner stove and oven.    The stove for the pop-up is portable and can be used inside the camper or set up outside.    After the weather starts to get warm the portability of that stove is really important so we can avoid heating up the camper to unbearable levels.  

We have found that by bringing along a few appliances we can increase the number of culinary creations we can prepare with a minimum of effort.     Crock pots are the cook's best friend, along with rice cookers, toaster ovens, George Foreman electric grill and waffle irons.     A cook center set up outside the camper keeps the heat out of the camper and the appliance handy so you can keep an eye on the food as it cooks. We have an awning that offers some protection but would have taken the appliance inside if rain was in the forecast.

Larry grills chicken using his George Foreman Electric Grill

On our most recent camping trip we brought along our Crock Pots.   Our daughter-in-law made a breakfast casserole for us that she put together shortly before we went to bed and was cooked to perfection when we got up the next morning.   The smell of the casserole woke us out of our slumber and, after we made a pot of coffee, we were enjoying our breakfast. The important thing about this method was it took very little time to put together and was ready to serve first thing the next morning.     I might add that the best thing to come along in a long, long time is the invention of a LINER for the Crock Pot, making clean up a breeze.    You simply pull the liner up and out of the pot and toss in a trash can.  Voila!    Clean Crock Pot.   

So one day when it was my turn to cook, I decided that the Crock Pot would simplify the process and help keep the heat to a minimum.   When we went to the store to buy supplies, I was thinking of how to cut down on prep time and also the length of time the dish would need to cook in order to get everything done.     I was planning to make a Chicken Taco Soup and ordinarily would have started the dish from scratch with raw chicken.    I was prepared to go that route when Larry suggested that I consider using rotisserie chickens.  DUH!   What a great idea!!    Starting with cooked chicken meant that the time in the Crock Pot could be reduced to just long enough to get the whole thing hot.

We bought two rotisserie chickens and then Larry kindly sacrificed his finger prints by deboning the chickens and we put the meat in a large Ziploc bag and stored it in the camper's refrigerator.    The next afternoon when I put the soup all together, all I had to do was pull out the bag of cooked chicken, a can of tomatoes, black beans, a box of chicken broth, frozen corn (could have used canned) and an envelope of Taco Seasoning.  Yeah, the little red packets that cost less than a dollar.   This step saves you from having to bring along a lot of bottles of spices to get the distinctive flavors you want.  I cut up an onion and sliced up two cloves of garlic, put that in a bowl, added a little olive oil and nuked it for a couple of minutes until the onion began to soften. (Our camper has a built in small microwave.)    I did this to help hasten the cooking time for the ingredients.

I lined the Crock Pot with a liner (yeah!! for liners), dumped in the chicken, tomatoes, beans, corn, chicken broth and sprinkled the taco seasoning over it all.    You could add more seasoning like salt and pepper if you like and parsley flakes if you have that.    Then I cooked the whole thing on high for about three hours.   If I had started with raw chicken it would have required a lot longer to cook to make sure the meat was done and not going to give us all salmonella.   

When we all sat down at the picnic table to eat, we brought over the pot of hot soup and passed around sour cream, shredded cheese, a jar of roasted bell peppers and corn chips.     If you have folks who enjoy a little heat, you can always add jalapenos to your soup or have a jar of peppers or hot sauce handy.    

We ate most of our meals outside in the screen house.

It was very easy to prepare and tasted very good, too.     When you think about cooking when you camp, try to simplify what you make but don't give up on having good, tasty meals.     We had grilled burgers one night, hot dogs and brats another, a Crock Pot chicken dish that had a wonderful sauce that we served over rice that was cooked in an electric rice cooker outside on our little cook center.    Larry made grilled chicken and grilled zucchini and squash one night with his George Foreman Electric Grill.   It is easy to clean up and cooks pork, chicken, burgers or veggies in a flash.   No need to worry about charcoal or firestarter.  With modern appliances, a little advance planning and modifying your recipes to make them easier to do at a camp site, you can eat rather well without breaking the bank or spending all your time slaving over a hot camp fire or camp stove.    Bon Appetit!    

Chicken Taco Soup
(This made enough to feed 3 kids and 4 adults and still have enough left overs for 2 or 3 more servings.)

2 Rotisserie Chickens, deboned
1 can of crushed tomatoes (28 oz.)
2 cans of black beans (14 oz. each)
1 1/2 - 2 cups of corn (frozen and allowed to thaw a little or canned)
1 box of chicken broth (32 oz.) 
1 Vidalia (or yellow) onion, chopped and cooked in microwave for 2 minutes or until soft
2 cloves of garlic, minced and cooked with onion in microwave to soften
1 tablespoon of Olive Oil
1 Envelope of Taco Seasoning
Salt, pepper and parsley flakes to taste

Line 6 qt. Crock Pot with a liner.    Add all ingredients and heat until hot and bubbly.   It may take several hours for your Crock Pot to reach this temperature but by using cooked chicken and canned beans you can significantly reduce the time necessary to make it safe to eat and for the flavors to blend.   Ours cooked for approximately 3 hours.

Serve with sour cream, grated cheddar cheese (or Queso Fresco) and your favorite corn chips!  Delicious, fast and tasty!   This tastes even better the next day after it sits in the refrigerator and the flavors "marry", as my big sis used to say.

Happy Trails,

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Crafty Project with a Lampshade!

Some of you have probably seen me reference Pinterest in a few of my posts.   If you have not gotten
sucked into this vast array of decorating ideas, recipes, crafty projects, inspirational sayings, fashion and pure nonsense, you have no idea!    Even a casual glimpse of what lurks within its pages will stun and amaze you with the plethora of trivia, good ideas, cooking tips, innovative recipes and countless ways to separate you from hours of your time!  

Once in a while, however, you will stumble upon an idea or tip that is just too good to pass by and it gets pinned on your board for some time in the future when you decide to put the idea to use.  And so it was with me one day when I noticed a picture of a lamp shade entirely covered in buttons.     I immediately thought of two things:   an off-white lamp shade on a small lamp on my kitchen counter and a collection of buttons in my craft supplies that would make Hobby Lobby's owners blush in shame.     The lamp shade had gotten splashed (mostly with water) and had an assortment of blotches and discolored spots on it that were unsightly but mostly unnoticed as most things are that you see every day.     The lamp sits on the countertop near the kitchen sink and has gotten battle scarred and, in fact, I had thought several times about replacing the shade and just kept forgetting to measure it so I could do just that.   

Once I saw the picture of the button encrusted shade on Pinterest, I KNEW I had to try that idea out on my poor, pitiful, neglected shade.   So that was my project "du jour".   Which technically means "of the day", but in truth turned out to take more like two days.    

Lamp Shade with water stains and blotches  :(

Ugly lamp shade before my intervention!

The next step was to take a damp cloth and wipe off the entire shade for dust and anything else that didn't belong on it.    Then I assembled a sizable portion of my button stash, my hot glue gun and a disposable plate so I could start sorting my buttons into colors, shapes and sizes.      I wasn't sure exactly how I intended to procede with the project since I was working from a picture on Pinterest but no specific instructions.     So I just started randomly gluing some of the largest buttons around the shade, thinking that somewhere along the line I would get struck with inspiration and insight to what needed to happen next.    You HAVE done a project like that, haven't you?     I mean really.   Who has not started a project like this without a clear battle plan before making your first move?   

As I glued buttons I began to see that what was needed was a variety of large buttons, intersperced with smaller ones and a healthy mix of colors.     What also became apparent was that fitting the buttons together, especially as I got more and more glued to the shade would get trickier and a little bit more difficult since the buttons are not flexible and neither is the glue once it grabs hold and dries....which is almost instantly!      So at that point, I decided that my best move would be to stop gluing to the body of the shade and concentrate on putting the buttons around the top edge and the bottom edge of the shade.     

I used small buttons on the top edge.

I used slightly larger buttons on the bottom edge.

After I glued buttons on the top edge, as well as the bottom edge, I then began filling in buttons around the inside section of the shade until most of the white areas were filled.    There were some small sections that were left open and I had no buttons that would fit---believe me, I tried to make them fit.   As I said, buttons are NOT flexible so I concluded that I would need to fill in those gaps (if I wanted all the spaces filled) with something smaller.    I remembered that I had some small brads, as well as some dots and rhinestones with adhesive backing on them.   So I got those out to help fill in the remaining spaces.   

The result?     Well, here ya go!

So the lamp shade project is pretty much finished and I am basically happy with how it turned out.    I will probably go back and fill in a few more "gaps" between buttons but truthfully, the gaps are not THAT apparent when you are looking at it in person.    They tend to show up more in the photograph.    So whether I put on more embellishements is still up in the air.    The bigger issue is now that the shade is looking a tad more presentable, does it go with the lamp?   In a word, NO!    So I see another project in my future involving this lamp.     I have considered three options:  painting it, applying decoupage and encasing it in cloth that is gathered around the neck of the lamp.    Not sure yet what I'll do but when and if I do, I'll post pictures!  

In the meantime, if you find a lamp shade around your home that is need of help (I  recommend selecting a fairly small shade for a project like this) why not consider using this method to fix it?    Heck, you could even start with a BRAND NEW shade and do this!  All you need is a hot glue gun, an assortment of buttons or even a lot of one kind and color and some spare time to glue them to the shade.  Craft stores sell them in bulk so it's not hard to get an assortment of buttons for not much money.  Gluing the buttons is not difficult and you can put on some tunes, sing along and still glue buttons without too much risk of making a mistake.    One thing I forgot to mention is that if you do make a mistake and glue on a button and decide it's not the right size, shape or color, they tend to pop off pretty easily if you apply firm, upward pressure.   So it's a forgiving craft! 

One of the happy benefits of retirement is that every day you have the chance to work on projects like this that previously would have been put off to the weekend or on a day off.      Since every day is "Saturday" when you're retired, I don't have to do that.   Each day gives me the option of having fun and working on things that I choose to do rather than things that I MUST do.   No one mentioned that perk of retirement before I retired so let me be the first to say, it is one of the BEST things ever about being retired!   

Happy Trails~~~


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Caution: Larry Wrote This Post!

A few days ago Marcia wrote a blog post about mustaches, etc.  She read it to me and at the end she had tears in her eyes.   So I thought perhaps it brought back some memories that made her tear up.   So I said, "Why are you crying?"   She said, "You're not a writer."  And I said,"Thank you for that endorsement."  So proceed with caution---you have been warned.   If you came here today expecting the same eloquent prose that you're used to reading on this blog, STOP reading now.   For you will be sadly disappointed.  

I spent the day doing a couple of projects I have been dragging my feet on.   I made a Camper Ramp to assist in replacing the camper tires.    If you want to know what this is, you can google the term "Trailer Aid" and find examples.  But mine is home made.  I may not be a writer but I do have some handyman skills.  (On edit:   Marcia says she is grateful for that!)  

Two pictures below will give you an idea of how this ramp works.    I am going to put it in action next week and will report back with pictures and let you know how well it worked or not.  
Trailer Ramp for Changing Tires
End View of Ramp

Another project I needed to do and have been putting off was the wheels needed to be painted on my truck.  They were rusted and pitted.   So I got the sandpaper out, sanded the rims, cleaned them, primed them and repainted.   Below are pix that show the process.   
Cleaned and Sanded


Completed Tire with New Paint

The upside of all this activity was I got two projects out of the way that needed to be done.   However, the downside is I got a sunburn and I missed my afternoon nap.  

Will report on the ramp after I put it into action next week.   If you got this far, thanks for reading.  

Hasta la Vista, Baby!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Mustaches, Mismatched Socks, Sequins and Penny Loafers

Larry and I just got back from walking at the mall.   Yes, we have joined the ranks of the other geezers in town and have gone for a daily walk three times this week.    I say "geezers" because the only people doing the walking are folks of our age and some quite a bit older than us.   And if you think I am being snarky to call them geezers, think again.    Many of those making their rounds were going a lot faster than us and had more pep in their step than many people half their age.    Quite the contrary, I admire those gray haired high steppers who are faithfully making their way through the tiled path at the local mall.  

The primary reason for our new found desire to walk the mall is the realization that we're too sedentary, too out of shape and just too lacking in energy to be healthy.    We have places to go, people to see and it's hard to do those things when you're "too pooped to pop" as Lucy Ricardo once said.    So after acknowledging that walking out in the fresh air along a nice, paved path down the street from our house is totally impractical when the humidity is 97 % and the mosquitoes have been known to carry off small dogs in our area, it dawned on us that there is a reason the mall opens 2 hours early for people to stroll along its empty hallways.      Climate controlled.    Safe.    Flat (except for a few ramps/steps).   Display windows with the latest fashions to entertain us.  Water fountains and bathrooms conveniently placed---just in case.   What more could anyone want?

So today as we meandered along looking at sequined tops, one shouldered sun dresses, Little Mismatch Socks, sparkly sandals and neon tennis shoes,  I suddenly knew why some of my younger relatives dress the way they do.   At family gatherings and celebrations, I have often marveled at their fashions but since I haven't darkened the doors of a mall until recently, I had no idea what the styles of the day had become.     This morning's outing certainly gave me an epiphany.   

There were a few things we saw that I attempted to explain to Larry since he is clueless when it comes to fashion.    His philosophy about clothing is that if it's clean, covers his nakedness and is not a white shirt, he is happy.   So as we were passing the Claire's I pointed out the mustache display that had a sign above it saying "Mustache Mania".    I mentioned to him that mustaches seem to be all the rage these days.   For girls.   That was as far as I got with the explanation because, frankly, I have NO idea how I know this nor do I know WHY it is a fad.    Maybe one of my readers could  leave a comment and fill me in on the details of this mysterious "must have".  

As I was pointing out the sequined, animal print tops in another display I felt a slight twinge as a memory stored somewhere deep within the folds of my cerebellum sprang to life.     It was 1963 and my family had just moved to Ft. Worth, Texas from Jackson, Mississippi.    I had just finished 9th grade and was anticipating going to high school for the first time the next fall.    Naturally a girl of that age starts noticing what the other girls are wearing.    I was involved in my church youth group shortly after we moved to Texas so among the first things I noticed was that every girl had some cut off jeans, a pair of penny loafers and white Levis.     It became obvious to me that if I didn't have those things I would stick out like a sore thumb among my peers.     I set up a howl like you would not believe until I got a few of the necessary items to make me fit in with the new school mates I would soon be meeting.   

Once I got those things, I thought I had arrived.    There is a photograph of me somewhere (hopefully it's lost to the ages) when we had just come back home after a 3 week trip through Mexico.   I am standing by our 1960 station wagon, posing like I was a model for Seventeen Magazine---my fashion Bible at the time.    I have on wrap around sunglasses, cut off shorts and penny loafers with crew socks.   I think I might even have my wrist slightly bent, casually showing my disdain for the whole affair.    Oh, yeah, I was cool and I knew it.   

And that memory popped into my head this morning when I saw all the latest fashions and realized why my nieces and granddaughter want to dress the way they do.    It is no different for them than it was for me all those years ago.    When you're young it is all about finding out who you are, how to fit in and be confident in yourself.    It is a process that evolves over time until one day you do develop your own style, your comfort zone, your own way to be.    But it's does not stop.   The process keeps on going in our lives.

Ask me how I know this?   It's because along with the sudden realization of why the young ones do what they do, I came to understand that Larry and I are still evolving in who we are.    Retirement brings abrupt and dramatic changes to your life.    Suddenly you're not in the familiar routine any more.    There are no alarms clocks to roust you out of bed every day.     No wardrobe worries.    No traffic to navigate.    It's just you and 12 - 18 hours of freedom every day.   As I told someone shortly after we retired, "Every day is Saturday when you retire."   

We are still figuring out who we are now that we don't do the jobs we used to do.  My old life involved lots of paperwork, employee issues, conference calls and dealing with state bureaucracy over our funding.   Larry's life involved a lot of physical labor, along with a hefty dose of electronic record keeping and making sure everything he did was done by the rules and within his own exacting standards.    Neither of us has to worry about any of that any more.     So where do we go from here?     Am I a writer, an artist?  A better cook?    Is he a carpenter?   A story teller and entertainer to his grandchildren?    Just who we are and what we'll be is developing as we go along.    The trick is to get comfortable with the process and figure out what it is that will signal we have arrived at our new persona.    I don't think I'll be wearing wrap around shades any time soon, but I sure do hope I meet back up with that girl who thought she had it all posing in her cut-offs and penny loafers.