Blast from the Past

I had a chance recently to revisit a place I hadn’t been since I was 11 or 12 years old. My great aunt and uncle had a house at Thousand Islands Park on Wellesley Island. The house was right on the park, too, across from the dock.

House at 1000 Islands Park

Back in the day we’d go there for a few days late in the summer when a lot of the extended family was gathered. You could sit and rock on the big, wrap-around porch, or hang in the hammock that was always strung between two of the corner porch pillars.

Every morning Uncle Chuck would take all the kids out on the St. Lawrence Seaway in the boat for a fishing trip. I don’t remember what kind of fish we caught, but we always caught something, and whatever we caught we’d be responsible for cleaning as soon as we got back. It’s where I learned to fillet a fish.

There were picnics most afternoons on one or another of the islands and M*A*S*H reruns on an old black-and-white TV in the kitchen when Aunt Bertha was cooking. I spent a lot of time at the park playground.

On the return visit, we could see the house but couldn’t go in. It’s still in the family. Chuck and Bertha died a while ago now, and their grandchildren own it and rent it out most weeks.

We walked around, checked out the dock and had lunch at the Wellesley Hotel. After lunch, the kid wanted to try out the playground. Some of the playground equipment is the same stuff I played on 40 years ago. (They’ve since added a lot of new stuff.)

I’m not usually nostalgic, but that day seemed almost magical. Memories, good ones, I haven’t thought of in years.

I know it wasn’t all roses. Vacations, and especially memories of childhood ones, are prone to a view through rose-colored lenses. It was the 1970s. The cold war was on. There was a gasoline shortage. There was an Iranian hostage crisis. All that.

But on a hot sunny day in late May it’s the warm and sunny memories that come to mind. That’s probably a good thing.

Slide at 1000 Islands Park

Toaster Oven

We must have cleaned out the toaster-oven before we packed it for moving last summer. I feel certain that we dumped all the burned bits out before stuffing it into a box. Maybe that counts as cleaning, maybe it doesn’t.

I know for certain that we’ve been here 10 months now and we haven’t cleaned it since. Until last week.

Last week, for the protection of anticipated house guests, we did a thorough cleaning of the whole house. Including the toaster-oven.

I re-discovered that the toaster-oven has a removable tray in the bottom to catch the crumbs and other what-have-you that drips or falls into its nether regions. I almost remember sliding that tray into place when we first brought it home from the store.

By now the crumb tray had been caked with a solid quarter inch of blackened char-goo.

Most if it came off easily enough with a paint scraper. The last layer took more effort. The char-goo had bonded with tray metal, requiring a Brill-O pad, plenty of elbow grease and a bit of cursing to remove.

When the last layer finally scraped off, I found these words embossed into the tray metal:

Warning: Empty crumb tray after each use.
Do not operate without the crumb tray in place.

CSA

We signed up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program this summer. I thought about doing it last summer, but didn’t on account of the mid-summer move.

For $350 we get vegetables every week from June to October. Probably more than we need. It seemed like a good deal, considering a trip through the produce section at Price Chopper can easily run $30 or more.

And then there’s supporting local agriculture, buying into the local economy and cutting down the carbon footprint. So, yeah, the best investment of $350 I’ve made in a while.

Breakfast

According to the cereal commercials of the 1970s it’s the “most important meal of the day”. (TV commercials were the definitive source of information.) As it turns out, breakfast is only the most important meal of the day if you make it yourself. If you’re going to have frosted flakes or captain crunch or honeycombs, you’re better off skipping breakfast.

(I have this information on the slightly more reliable reporting from NPR. I like that the original headline for this was, apparently, “Breakfast Blowback”.)

After hearing that story on the radio, I decided that I’m up early enough most mornings to pull off a home-cooked breakfast. Why not give it a try?

The first morning at it, I managed to get together cream of wheat. Not the instant kind in the little packets. The kind you stir up on the stovetop.

Day 2 I did spinach and mushroom omelettes. Day 3, hash-browns and scrambled eggs with spinach and onion. Day 4, fruit salad. Day 5 I upped the fruit to a parfait with Greek yogurt and granola.

About a half hour of focus on the job seems to do the trick.

It helps that in this part of the world it’s light at 5:30 this time of year. I wake up when it gets light out. I’m not sure if I’ll be capable of such things in the winter months when the sun doesn’t come out until 9 and I’d rather hibernate.

On the other hand, maybe having something to focus on will help the morning drill once the darkness sets in again.

Ask me how breakfast is going again in November.

Good Books

One book leads to another. Here are a few that were worth the time I spent with them:

  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Yuval Noah Harari. The biggest idea in this book is that our ability to deal with fiction is what got us to the top of the food chain.
  • Switch. Chip and Dan Heath. Lots of things you can try to help change happen, based on three simple ideas from recent research: (1) What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem; (2) What looks like laziness is often exhaustion; and (3) What looks like resistance is often lack of clarity.
  • Decisive. Chip and Dan Heath. Lots of things you can try to help make better decisions. For example, the Vanishing Options Test: “What if you couldn’t pick any of the options you’re now considering. What would you do instead?”
  • what if? Randall Munroe. Entertainment for geeks. Scientific answers to dumb questions from the guy who draws the xkcd comic.