Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!
Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Flea Market Finds!

I was up way before the crack of dawn this morning at 3:30 AM.  John and I were on our way to a favorite flea market where we buy and sell at called Jake's in Barto, PA. Both our vehicles were laden down with our antiques, flea market items, and bottom of the barrel crap not to mention bags, labels, tags and tables! Jake's Flea Market is a huge flea market with several hundred vendors on Route 100 just north of Boyertown, PA. As with any large flea market, if you are looking for something, chances are it can be found at Jake's

We arrived at Jake's at around 5:15 AM and were relieved that we were able to get a couple of pretty good spaces. The threat of rain held everyone at bay so it wasn't as crowded as it normally is on a summer Sunday. After walking around shopping for treasures for 45 minutes, we set up our stuff in the couple of spaces we rented and started selling our wares. We always bring a mixture of items and are successful at selling because of this.

Vintage Berry Baskets
Besides selling, half the fun of doing a flea market is walking around and buying stuff you can't live without!  We takes turns hunting for treasures. Today, I came across some great finds and wanted to share them with you.

The first I found were a couple of vintage berry baskets, two for a buck! I am going to use them in my pantry for onions and small potatoes. I usually only keep a couple of each on hand so they are the perfect size and fit right on the pantry shelf.

At another booth, I was digging through a mess of odd silverware looking for tea strainers and came across 3 red Bakelite spoons from the Art Deco era, figure the 1930's. I love anything from this time period. I have seen these spoons go for around $5 or $6 a piece. I try and pick up pieces wherever I can.  I picked up these three for 25 cents each. Not too bad if I say so myself!


 
Next, I was hunting for some plants for my deck and came across a copper Arts and Crafts vase of some sort. It is missing a top piece but is a perfect example of copper work from that era, figure 1860 to around 1910. I will use it as a vase or just display it. I love the lines and design of the piece. After negotiating with the dealer, she took off $4 and I got it for $8.  I think this piece comes from the early 1900s.



I picked up a very interesting shot glass at the bottom of a box of stuff for $3. It is of a swirl pattern but with a silver plated rim. I have never seen anything like it. It is very old, I would say 2nd half of the 1800s. If anyone has a clue, lemme know!

I also included two flint cordial or sherry glasses that I picked up the week prior at Renninger's Flea Market in Adamstown, PA. I snagged them both for $20. A steal since they usually go for around $25 a piece. One has a chip on the bottom you can barely even notice. Well worth the price. These flint glasses were  made during the late 1700s to early 1800s. I have started collecting them and love drinking out of them (very carefully of course.) I have 6 now. I know it sounds kind of crazy but I wish these antiques could tell me their stories. What person in the late 1700s drank out of these glasses? It's cool to think that I am drinking from the same glass.

Lastly, I picked up a gift for my sister Sheryl's birthday in July. Let's just say she will love it. I will give you a peek ... just kidding!  Sheryl will have to wait until her birthday on July 19th!



Monday, June 24, 2013

Philodendrons to a Ficus

Sunday was a pretty productive day. I ended up at Lowe's and bought a smattering of impatiens, other assorted flowers, creeping plants like sweet pea and English ivy, hanging pots, and soil to begin finally finishing off this deck for the summer. I always plot what to do each week so that by end of June I will have everything completed. The list gets chucked by mid June with a muttered "Eff it" under my breath. I then play catch up until the Fall. By that time, all the plants that were planted in May have either died or become overgrown and it is time to start thinking about mums, pumpkins, and dried corn stalks.
 
I had a bunch of dirt left over and needed to repot some house plants so I figured I would complete that task as I already had the blackened fingernails of a seasoned day-gardener. I grabbed four houseplants and carried them out to my staging area in the driveway. By staging area, I mean cracked open cans of beer, a cassette player playing Fleetwood Mac's Greatest Hits, and cicadas periodically using my back as a landing strip. 
 
As I carefully pulled each root-laden plant out of its ceramic pot of a prison, my mind wandered (as usual) back to the 70's thinking about the houseplants my Mom and Nana each had.  As an adult, I have mirrored what they had in their homes. John's Mom apparently has had an influence on what I now have growing in my home as well.
 
My Very Young Snake Plant
John's Mom loves primroses and African violets. I now have those on my window sill in the kitchen. One Christmas Eve three years ago, John and I had our families up for the Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes. As a little gift, I bought each of the women a small African violet. Since one couple did not show up, I had one left over. After three years, it sits in the kitchen blooming it's flowers throughout the year.  The primrose has survived despite repeated mauling from the two cats.  It is an embarrassing and shocking example of a stripped down primrose.
 
My Nana grew several pots of tall snake plants. I remember seeing them all over her 60's style rancher while growing up. My sister and brother each share an affinity for this type of plant. They are easy to grow but more importantly, remind us constantly of our grandparents. Mine is no where near as tall as Nana's was. It is the stunted version of my Nana's.  I wonder what ever happened to hers?
 
Growing up in Wenonah, NJ, Mom had philodendrons all over the house. She insisted they were the easiest house plants to grow and were incredibly hardy. Was she ever right! During my college years in the late 80's early 90's, Mom gave me a philodendron for my apartment in college. This philo came from our living room in Wenonah and dates back to the early 80's. It has survived ever since but not without coming close to biting it.
 
Over the years, the plant began to lose leaves, becoming smaller. It went from a vibrant bushy jungle of tendrils to a smaller, older wizened version of its former self, the stem thick with age. I almost lost it a couples months ago. One day the cats had a field day with it and knocked it over, breaking the pot and main stem. They pretty much tore it "limb from limb." I was heartbroken over this stupid plant because it was a gift for my 1st apartment from my mother. When Mom gave it to me, it was as if she was saying, "You are an adult now. Take care of this plant and all will be fine."
 
Primrose, Philodendron with 5 leaves, and African Violet
 
I gingerly picked up the remains of the broken philo and tried to replant it but over the next couple days, it just got worse. The remaining dozen leaves started yellowing and wilting. I made the decision to take several sections and try to promote the root growth by rerooting them in a vase of water. I couldn't give up. This plant was around 30 years old. Three sections ended up dying but the last section, with one remaining leaf suddenly started growing roots in the water!
 
This is a fake orange tree, not a ficus.
I transferred the philodendron to a small pot and over the last couple weeks, four additional leaves have sprouted.  It has one big leaf and four smaller ones. I know I obsess over this plant but after Mom's passing, it grew to become a living connection to her.  It will rest on the kitchen window sill now, protected and away from the claws of the cats.
 
Nana also had a ficus tree which she grew indoors. For years, I would play with my toys all over it. I fascinated by this miniature tree … until Mom informed me it was plastic. And then I found out it was actually a plastic ORANGE tree, not ficus. That would explain the small plastic oranges at the end of each branch.
 


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

You say Cicada, I say Ci-cah-da!

As I navigated the dead crunchy corpses of the male cicadas, I came to the realization, I am over them big time. The 17 year cicadas arrived about 3 or 4 weeks ago. They struggled through the soil where they lay buried and hidden for the last decade and a half patiently waiting until that internal alarm commanded them to dig upwards! I was so excited at the sight of their thousands of holes across the yard and just amazed that there they lay buried without us having any knowledge of them.


Cicada on leaf
John was not so excited. We first thought it was an insect invasion of another sort, maybe some mass invasion of mud wasps or bees which had suddenly come forth to reek havoc on the end of Spring! I had thought it might by cicadas but had not heard anything in the news about a new brood.

After the news began reporting that Brood II, the 17 year cicadas, were coming forth, I remembered back to when the 13 year cicadas came forth several years ago. John and I used to shop a flea market in Perkiomenville, PA, which was covered with that invasion. I eagerly awaited Brood II. 

Why 17 years? Well, from what I read, it has to do with out-smarting their predators. How did they pick 17 years or 13 years for that matter? Did someone have a cicada bonfire and the head cicada said, "Hey Joe, pull a number out of my tiny hat and that's how long we'll stay underground. Those stupid birds will never figure it out!" Who knows. One of the great mysteries of our world.

One morning, John came in and told me that several were stuck under bricks which lined our fire pit. He had dug up a brick and five of them were struggling to get out.
"Well, did you help them escape???" I exclaimed with a Born Free excitement.
"What?!" he answered, giving me a look reminiscent of those mentally disturbed individuals that he sometimes sends to Building 50.
"We have to help them!" I stated emphatically.
"Marc, you are crazy."
With that, I began formulating plans to help those buggers get to the trees.

My friend and honorary Lake Wynonah sister Sue stopped over one evening and we walked the yard. She is an animal lover and I suddenly realized I had found my fellow savior of the stuck cicadas. We dug each brick up lining the firepit helping about 40 or so larva get free to the trees ... or to the mouths of hungry birds. Well, I thought, at least they now have a chance.


Cicada shells
For your knowledge my readers, cicadas do not bite so we faced no harm in picking them up. I know you were all worried reading about how we dug them up.

Soon, John and I found dried empty cicada shells all over everything. They had molted into their adult forms with wings and now were hiding in the upper echelons of the trees drying off. From the new reports, it was determined that 300 million to upwards of 1 billion were in the midst of hatching from North Carolina to Connecticut. Ugh ... I began to have second thoughts about this. But surely the 40 I had helped free wouldn't make that much of a difference. And I had seen some robins with full bellies lurching about the grass.

Then the whirring started. Not too bad at first but then it got worse. Much worse! The males' daytime choruses to attract females are loud enough to drown out passing planes! It literally sounded like a UFO was hovering over our house. We learned from friends in the Lake that our area ... lucky us ... was one of the only areas so densely hit by them. And they began flying all over the place. Hundreds of them if not thousands were flying about without the proper pilot licenses.

Cicada resting after falling on me.
Cicadas fly about singing and looking for mates like drunk Kamikazee pilots crashing into whatever is in their way. I drive out of the Lake and ping, ping, PING! They are bouncing off of the car every which way. I drive over Blue Mountain to work and they seem to aim straight for the car getting smashed in my grill, all over my windshield, and stuck in my wipers. Every day I have to pull into the gas station to wipe their smashed slimed remains off of the windows.

I walk through the yard and they hit me grabbing onto what ever they can with their strong legs. They are harmless but a pain to remove, all the while buzzing loudly in annoyance. I was pulling a broken twig sharply off of the dogwood and in a buzzing catastrophe, had 10 of them fall on me!

I shrieked and ran towards the house, then realizing I couldn't go inside for I would be bringing in 10 new toys for the cats. We already had a crazy experience with one which got in. Max and Moxie Cat would tell you that it was the best thing EVER!  I gingerly took each one off flinging them into the bushes.

Cicadas gettin' it on!
The above ground life cycle of these mysterious red eyed insects seems to be several weeks. We are about half way through it. Now though, John and I are navigating through the dead ones which have fallen everywhere. I swept them to the side of the drive one morning and about 20 more took their place by the time I arrived home from work. 

John is complaining, rightfully so, about the damage to trees but from what I have read, it shouldn't be permanent on the mature ones. The females lay the eggs towards the ends of the branches causing the twigs on the end to die off and hang down. This is called flagging. I call it "more yard work for Marc to pull each one off after this invasion."

Cicadas have begun to die off in droves south of Pennsylvania but only recently in our neck of the woods. I have noticed a funky smell associated with their bug carcasses. I am told it will increase in pungency as more die. With life comes death, and then life yet again.

After the adults die, within several weeks the nymphs will hatch in the trees, fall to the ground, and burrow down where they will slowly grow over the next 17 years. When these nymphs emerge, I will be 60 years old. Cicadas are annoying now but overall, just simply an amazing occurrence in nature which we are all lucky to witness. 
 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

It All Goes Back to Body Functions

Sheryl and I have some pretty daffy conversations sometimes. As I have mentioned before, they usually occur when we are both driving to work. They run the gamut from the everyday mundane such as “How is the weather in Philly? It is raining in Schuylkill County.” to the completely ridiculous “I think I would be much happier if I were a cat..“ To which the response is appropriately enough, “What about a dolphin?”  I will let you figure out who said what.

One morning Sheryl offered up to me that she wanted to raise pachyderms upon her retirement.
“Pachyderms.” I said.
“Yes, pachyderms,” she replied.

It was later found out that my sister was talking about alpacas. She wanted to raise them for their wool. Pachyderms don’t have wool. That is the scientific name for the elephant family. My sister had stated she wanted to raise elephants. Love her dearly, I got a chuckle out of that one. I think we have all been there with the honest misuse of words.

The other day while driving and chatting, we began discussing road rage. Nothing too major or violent though. With our lengthy commutes, we will give the occasional stare down to other drivers. I will resort to giving those people tailing me the sudden reverse stop gesture with my hand. My signal means 'SLOW THE F*#$ DOWN NOW!" without giving them the finger. My sister instead screams in the rearview mirror, “GET THE F*#$ OFF MY ASS!!!!” as if they can see and hear her yelling. I have heard her do this while on the phone with me and I crack up laughing at her screaming.

We often crack each other up so much, we have to take a break and refocus on our driving. Take our discussion one Thursday morning. I told Sheryl that in preparations for my upcoming vacation, I was laying out clothes and discovered that I couldn’t get my bathing suits buttoned up. Had I gained that much weight? I looked at the labels and both said 30 inch waist. I couldn’t have gained THAT much weight. Maybe the nylon shrunk from repeated washings and dryings. My sister politely informed me that nylon by its very nature, does not, in fact, shrink. So you are saying I am a fat cow, OK I get the hint.

I then said to Sheryl, "Well, you know you can lose a pound or two just by going to the bathroom."
“WHAT??” she screamed cracking up.
“Its true! I always take a pound off for poo 'n pee."
“That can’t be true!” she retorted.
“IT IS!” I exclaimed. “You figure your true weight is actually a pound or two less once you get rid of the poo 'n pee.”
“I don’t believe it,” she replied
“Well I weighed myself one morning and I was 170 lbs. I took a poo and then weighed myself again. 169. I am sure I poo’d a pound of poo!”
Sheryl laughed and said, “Why does every conversation we have end up talking about body functions?!”
“You are right Sheryl, it’s something in our family,” I replied laughing.

And this is just not relegated to my sister! I was visiting my brother in San Diego the other week and I mentioned to Adam that I really like the Fiber One bars he has at his house as a quick breakfast. He said to me, "Well Angelica (my niece) really likes them, so we started picking them up. I like them because you know sometimes I get these old man poops and they help out."

"Oh you mean like you are constipated?" I asked.
Readers, you get to a certain age and family members will just easily discuss ANYTHING!
"Well yeah, and I eat one and then go to the bathroom, and BOOOOOM! It all comes out at once."
I said, "I know exactly what you mean! You have to hold on for dear life!"

He and I started laughing over this mutual revelation.



Sunday, June 2, 2013

Airline Observations

Some people dress up to travel and some don’t. There used to be a time when people would get dressed up to the nines. Traveling on planes was considered a status symbol. Now people travel in the most comfortable clothes possible. Your leopard print chef’s pants with ripped t-shirt falls into that category. I will give a pass to the kid who sat next to me in the tie dye and cargo shorts. I was also happy to help you cheat on you math homework although I probably gave you all wrong answers. Sorry.

There is a point in every plane flight where people all start farting. You start smelling it. It is natural due to the air pressure in the cabin and  I guess all that bouncing around. People need to do what I do. If you have to let a big one rip, get your ass up and fart in the airplane bathroom. To the 60 year old woman in front of me, you are not fooling anyone. I know it is coming from you. You were exuding multiple farts.

To the older gentlemen on my puddle jumper flight from Scranton to Newark, if the seat rest on the aisle side of your seat doesn’t go up the first time, why do you think it will go up after the eighth time!?  It is not supposed to! He kept trying it, and trying it, and trying it. I sat across the aisle from him watching this in frustration. I finally spoke up, “It doesn’t go up.” He kept trying it. “IT DOES NOT GOT UP!” I said firmly. “It’s not supposed to!” Other passengers were observing this. “Boxcar-kumquat?” he asked me. (Well at least that's what it sounded like.) The gentleman did not speak English and I had no idea what language he was in fact, speaking. I sighed loudly and stared at the airplane ceiling.

Speaking of arm rests, please strange mother, do not place your adorable baby onto my aisle seat rest after walking him up and down the aisle a dozen times to try and tire him out. I don’t appreciate him falling back onto my lap. I froze, I just completely froze. There he is writhing around on my laptop and tray table while you laugh, apologize, and attempt to get your arms around him. And then to make matters worse, you grabbed my MP3 player with one of your baby’s arms and forcibly snatched the head phones from my head. I could have been severly injured … by those little rubber headphone thingys.

Although as I was listening to my loud club music, it was quite oddly fascinating that you were bouncing him around in your arms EXACTLY to the beat of Daft Punk's new album. I enjoyed that.

Airlines no longer use cash for foods purchased on board. So if you are gonna buy that snack box with pita chips, Chex Mix, and Pringles, you will need a credit card or ATM card to pay for it. Make sure you get a receipt for that purchase. I purchased a Thai chicken wrap which was actually very good. I did not purchase the Starburst fruit chews and granola bar. Now they always ask you if you want your receipt. My advice, definitely take it. My unnamed airlines though was very apologetic and quick to remedy the error.

Lastly, I love having a drink at the airport restaurant or bar when I travel. I call it my first drink of the vacation! It is fun watching the dynamics of other passengers. Several people flirt with each other over their beers or glasses of wine. Some businessmen talked business. They seem boring. Others stare straight ahead, not budging from this position. They are rigid as they eat, never wavering. Now THEY are the ones who need a drink.