Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Toaster

When we were married in 1966, my husband's co-workers wanted to give us a wedding gift to which everyone contributed and they asked what we might like to have. I decided a toaster would be very useful and we didn't have one. They gifted us with this beauty and it has worked all these years to serve us warm, golden toast. My grandchildren don't believe me when I tell them our toaster is older than their father.


Unlike many of our household appliances that have come and gone,  been discarded, or given to Goodwill, it has never needed repair. In spite of my best efforts to accidentally ruin it by dropping it during one of our moves, it still chugs along, doing what it does best. The little dent in one corner gives it a slightly distressed look, and the crack in the base of the control panel hasn't affected the toast at all.


Its design reminds me a bit of the first screen savers called "flying toasters" which I naturally used on my earliest computers. By the way, it is still available. Our toaster looks very old-fashioned, and I often wonder why don't I replace it? After all, I have replaced countless coffee makers. I added a toaster oven when they became popular because it is quick to warm rolls or bagels, or  to make toasted sandwiches with cheese, etc. However, when I want a slice of toast quickly, it goes into the little slot and is quickly ready. It is faster than the toaster oven for just one slice of toast.

I keep it because it isn't just a toaster. It is a reminder of the days when the secretary (before they became administrative assistants) at work was in charge of "hearts and flowers" and everyone was a team. When someone had a special occasion, most were long-term co-workers and even though the community had some disagreements, everyone would come together to celebrate their occasions and mourn their losses. It represents a first job and the camaraderie of the office environment of yesteryear.

I'm just not ready to part with it and call me a pack rat, but as long as it works, it has a place in my kitchen. Even if it stops working, I might plant geraniums in it. Everything has its use, and I can find a use for everything. I don't like a disposable world with mountains of garbage like in the movie Wall-E. Such a cute movie and so profound. Maybe I will watch it again and see if there is a clone of our toaster in it.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Toast

As I am coming down from my sugar high of Halloween, I raise my glass to this great approaching season of wretched excess. Can't decide which among the wonderful Hallmark Holidays at the end of each year is my favorite. All of them seem to include tons of food. I've shopped for days and I'll start cooking a day early for the granddaddy of all foodie holidays--Thanksgiving.

As I watch all the specials on TV from the queens of cookery and read all the great recipes on the web, they all seem to have one thing in common--butter. And here am I, cholesterol count challenged, trying to find a way to go butterless. I love that gobbler prepared in any way that avoids butter. I have to try to include on my menu veggies and fruits--sans butter. Baked sweet potatoes or Idaho taste great with a bit of garlic,salt, onion and a smidgen of olive oil for flavor. I'll cut out that butter. Dinner rolls are great, but I will invite my guests to dip them in olive oil and hide the butter. If they're on the wheat-free diet, good on them, pass the turkey. They will like my green tossed salad with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I have replaced butter in my diet with olive oil and spices. Butter cookies on my menu? Nope! Dessert? Maybe next year.

But wait, the most wretched excess day of the year to toast is the infamous Black Friday. Not bragging nor complaining, since I finished my Christmas shopping last week,  I only need to go to the mall for a jolt of adrenaline to compete for those parking spaces and blockbuster specials at the opening of the doors. Forget that midnight opening the day of Thanksgiving. Wretched excess Walmart can count me out. Sleeping is tops on my list.

After all, I need my energy to get busy on my list that I already made and checked twice to sent greeting cards to everyone I never see or communicate with during the rest of the year. They will all want to know I'm still alive, including mandatory pictures and an audit of my year. I will have to dream up something that sounds important enough to compete with those annual letters that announce all the fabulous trips, and family accomplishments. They win.

I will deck the halls before December arrives but I refuse to contact the local TV station and ask everyone to drive through my neighborhood or compete with all the neighbors for the largest inflating lawn balloon. Ba Humbug! Here's a toast to all those tasteful people who put a candle in the window and a home-made cone wreath on the front door.

Cheers to all those children who have a blast opening tons of gifts and toys amid clouds of wrapping paper and bows that I try to bag and save to reuse. Stepping on AA batteries makes my day. Treasured memories are stored of the favorite Christmas holiday when excess reigned and gifts were endless. But wait, it's not over yet, we have the day after Christmas to shop again for better bargains than we could find before the 25th. Toasting those merchants who have our number and know we love wretched excess.

The biggest toast of the year goes to that New Year's Eve celebration when we indulge ourselves in whatever libation that suits us, we kiss while the ball drops, and we sing Auld Lang Syne--grateful to have made it through another year. Thank goodness the season is over and we have to head to the fitness centers to pay the price for our sins of wretched excess.

I personally tip my glass to the magnet on my refrigerator door that says, "The best times are together times."  All the rest is just wretched excess.

A toast to everyone:  May all your holidays meet your greatest expectations.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Tale of Two Bridges--Bridge Two

Bridge Two had more humble beginnings than the Royal Gorge Bridge from the previous post, and began to take shape in the spring of 1984. We dumped a bid on a building lot in a cornfield, and snapped up this wooded hillside with a tiny creek running through it. Unlike the Royal Gorge Bridge, it had no sweeping vistas, no river, no dizzying heights, but it came with work guaranteed. We had to find a way to cross the stream to build our house so the process began with buying mud boots so we could slop around in the creek and install plywood retainers to contain the creek while we built the footers and concrete abutments. 

My engineer husband designed a highway-worthy bridge and we started playing with rebars and concrete to build our tiny bridge which is only about 8 feet above the little creek--not too tall, but I wouldn't want to fall off because we lined the creek with huge rocks. Occasionally, the little creek floods and looks like a river, so the concrete abutments aren't overkill. Our son and his neighborhood buds played in the creek while we worked. 

After much agony and sore backs, We had two concrete abutments, topped by three painted, 17" steel I-beams.

Like the Royal Gorge Bridge, we attached wooden timbers which are 12" long, 12" wide, and 3" thick. We only needed 15, but like the Royal Gorge Bridge, they have to be regularly replaced. We don't replace them at the same pace, but to date, most have been replaced 3 or 4 times. Our deck looked like the Royal Gorge Deck, just smaller.

Ta-Da!!! We did it. The little creek flowed freely when this picture was taken and Typar lined the driveway awaiting the blacktop process. We installed two very strong pipes on either side with chains attached so that when we left the construction site of our house which was up the hillside, no one could bring in trucks to carry away construction materials. It was too far to hand carry away stuff. Every night, we locked the chain and had no problems.

These pictures are very old, as are we, and so is our little bridge. It is quite unique and we enjoy it when we aren't working on it. It is very satisfying to drive over it and remember all the work we have invested in it over the last 27 years.

In 2011, the work goes on.

This fall, we undertook a renovation of our deck to try to extend the life of the timbers. Like the Royal Gorge Bridge, our timbers are bolted to the steel beams but our spacing is a bit closer. The rain and snow weather the timbers and we wanted to protect them.

Our little creek isn't far below the bridge and is usually only a small stream. During heavy rains, it can be a raging river capable of moving huge rocks and trees.

The view under our bridge isn't as spectacular as the Royal Gorge Bridge, but we invested a lot of hard work to produce it.

Our project to protect the timbers included covering them with a triple layer of 6 mil mylar sheeting and laying tongue and groove yellow pine flooring to form a solid deck.

This is our finished project. It took about a week of nice autumn weather to complete. Our little bridge has wooden curbs along the side like the Royal Gorge Bridge, but we didn't add steel rails. I don't know if they apply water seal coats to their bridge, but we did. We first saw the Royal Gorge Bridge after we built our bridge but each time I visit it, I am amazed that our humble little bridge has so many similarities.

We once had fanciful dreams of building a covered bridge over it, but I think we'll pass on that notion. It's fun to rumble over our little bridge as we go about our lives. It is a constant part of our lives and a reminder of the worth of a hard day's work. It will probably outlive us.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Tale of Two Bridges--Bridge One

This is the Royal Gorge Bridge, built in Colorado in 1929. It is amazing that they had the means to build the world's highest suspension bridge at that time. It is a spectacular place to visit with vistas too breathtaking for words. It's not for anyone cautious of dizzying heights because it looks so fragile and so high. It is indeed a long way down to the Arkansas River--1,053 feet.

I like to include a trip to visit this amazing bridge anytime I visit the region.

Traffic can drive across the bridge from either direction or pedestrians can walk its length. Drivers are available to drive any vehicle across if its owner is the nervous sort. The size of the timbers spanning the deck aren't significant. They are three inches thick, and twelve inches wide. I'm not sure of the exact length of each board. They are bolted to the steel I-beams underneath. There are wooden curbs along the ends of the timbers, and a steel net rail attached. There is a steel framework underneath to which the wood is attached. 

As I looked down and took this picture of my feet, I was amazed that I could see the steel I-beams under the wooden timbers as well as the Arkansas River very far below. It is easy to see why one might think twice about walking on this bridge or driving over it. We were assured that it was perfectly safe. I didn't have a chance to see how they replace those timbers, because some looked overdue. It must be an interesting process to see. According to their fact sheet, 250 are replaced annually.

That's a long way down for a quarter. There is a train that runs along the banks of the river. There are also white water rafters but it is so far away, it is hard to see them.

So we hopped inside this cage which runs along an aerial tram all the way to the bottom.

We wanted to get the view of the bridge from the riverbank and it is so high, it is hard to see.

Halfway back to the top, I took this picture because I could see so much of the sky between the wooden timbers on the deck. There is a lot of space between some of the timbers. It is a fabulous piece of engineering, and just a little bit scary. Very impressive.

The tale of the second bridge will follow in the near future.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Signs of Life

As the seasons come and go, I see all of them through my office windows. I placed my desk in front of my triple bay windows so that I can view the great outdoors. I placed my computer monitor to the side of my desk so that it doesn't obstruct my view. The CPU is off to the opposite side of the desk so I have room to place the little trinkets, mugs and photos that are important to me. I can't imagine placing a desk to face a wall or the inside of the room with the windows behind me. I prefer spending computer time during the day when the curtains are open and I can see outside.

Wool gathering is a favorite past time so when my fingers pause on the keyboard of my computer, I can watch the leaves fluttering on the trees or glimpse the hummingbird at the feeder in front of the window. Sometimes, the deer, hawks, or a pretty red fox catch my eye so I stop whatever has my attention on the computer to thoroughly enjoy the busy world of nature outside my windows.

I notice probably more than I should about the comings and goings of my neighbors, and I see the moms and grandmoms walking the toddlers through the neighborhood. I notice when the snow is plowed, the mail and newspapers delivered, and the garbage collected. I don't sit waiting for those things to happen, but I notice any motion outside my window. 


This set of windows faces north but they are triple pane which is not quite as energy-efficient as an insulated wall. Nevertheless, I love houses with lots of windows. Closed-in spaces are very boring, and depressing to me. It makes sense to me that life outside my window can be very interesting even when I am spending time at the computer.

Yes, yes--messy desk. I'm spending this week cleaning up my office and taming the piles of paper and boxes of unimportant stuff that I haven't looked at in five years. It is time to clear the room to host holiday guests and it is a good excuse to tame the clutter.