Cider Press Hill

Hard Times

Tuesday, 6:31 pm

By Kate





The veneer of wealth in this town is showing thin worn spots this winter. Signs in windows downtown vie for attention with hand lettered signs screaming 50% Off in ever larger lettering. Lots of people looking, but not too many carrying bags or parcels out of the stores, even with the discounts. The streets are an utter mess with only the main streets kinda-sorta plowed. The side streets are treacherous. Everything is slippery and if traffic wasn’t slow enough before, now it takes a half hour to get from one end of town to the other. The town doesn’t have the money to cope with this much snow removal this soon. Winter arrived just a little early and we have a long way to go yet. I have never seen the streets in such poor condition. It’s another reminder that things are kind of bleak out there.

In the face of these reminders, the lad was hoping to find a job during his winter break, but not counting on it. Not much luck so far. The places where he’s worked before regretfully told him that not only aren’t they hiring, they are also letting people go. Some of these places may not be in business by the time summer arrives. He’s growing a little desperate.

Over the weekend, he spoke with one of his roommates from school who has already been gainfully employed at his local public schools. He suggested the lad check with our school district and inquire about substitute teaching. Something he hadn’t considered. Today he stopped by the school to check out the possibilities. Surprisingly, they practically pounced on him, had him fill out an application while they hovered, waiting for him to hand it back. He was told they’d probably call him as soon as school is back in session. He has the required two years of college under his belt and good references right within the school system. That is sufficient for substitute teaching. At $50 a day, that’s a fair haul for a college kid if he can get two or three days a week for the winter break. Especially when there is little else to be had. We shall see.

I have to admit that I was a little skeptical at the idea, initially. And now I am surprised. I hope it works out. It may be about the last place in town that’s hiring anyone for anything.


Life is fluid

Sunday, 2:16 pm

By Kate




heavy snow

Last night came close to being a calamity. Or less hysterically and more proverbially, it just delivered a bowl of sour lemons and well, we made some of the most delicious lemonade. And less cryptically, The Dad pitched a whiny fit over the phone into the lad’s ear and begged him to please come to his house for Christmas because the lad is almost grown up and he’s hardly ever had a real Christmas with him. It was up to him to decide.

The lad chewed on that, or stewed over it, for an hour or so before he came to me with the news. He was rather upset. He felt as if he was being placed in the middle of a dispute whereby, whichever choice he made, he was going to break someone’s heart and he was just miserable over it.

My immediate response was to flip out. I was so angry I would have pole axed the man if he’d been within reach. But, being so angry was not helpful and it just made the lad feel worse and I quickly zipped it and told him I needed to leave the house for a little while to clear my mind and think it through. I told him it wasn’t his fault and I wasn’t angry with him and we’d fix it.

So, I got in the car and ran a few errands and got a cup of coffee and sat and thought. Sorted my feelings out.

1. Yes, I was so angry I could taste bile.
2. Yes, it was a shitty thing to dump in our lap five days before Christmas after all plans had been made and agreed to.
3. Yes, he has a point. He hasn’t spent a Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with the lad in many years. This is something we should have addressed a lot sooner. I’m not sure I’d have agreed. That made me feel small.
4. It was decidedly wrong to ask the lad to make the choice rather than talk it over with me. Like...maybe a month ago, at least.
5. I’d still like to pole axe him.
6. How do I turn it around so that we all get what we want?
7. Bastid.
8. See #6.
9. Why am I so attached to the date of December 25th? Hum… I don’t really think I am, actually. Double hummmm....
10. Okay, he’s going to his Dad’s house for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and, if I’m correct in assessing motives, this is going to both please and annoy The Dad.
11. Okay, the annoy part isn’t as satisfying as pole axing him, but it’ll do in a pinch.
12. Mainly, the lad doesn’t have to choose between us and that’s the most important thing. Some day in the not too distant future he will make choices about holidays and who, if anyone, he spends them with. But not in this way.

I returned home and found the lad pacing miserably.

“You’re going to your Dad’s house for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. You don’t have to make that choice, sweetie. It’s okay. He hasn’t had that pleasure in a lot of years and I know that I’d hate it. I don’t like the way this has been done, but let’s do what we do best...something different. It’s the Solstice Eve and tomorrow is the Solstice. What the hell? Why not?”

To say that the lad was surprised might be an understatement. Also relieved. And instantly happy. And suddenly really into the impromptu preparations. Except…

“But I haven’t done my Christmas shopping yet. I don’t have anything to give you.”

“That’s okay. It’s more fun to watch you open stuff. But if you feel the need....gimme Amazon gift certificates. I have a serious Kindle addiction to feed.”

Instant smiles. Can do. Not a problem. He scurried off to consult his laptop.

“I hope your Dad and I don’t give duplicate gifts this year,” I said when he returned.

“Well,” the lad said, “I know that he’s giving me an iPod.”

I think I started banging my head against the wall....

“No way,” he said, “you’re kidding, right? O man, that’s rough.”

“What kind?” I asked.

“Just a basic iPod,” he said.

I made a snarky sound and my eyes glittered. Oh they did. I’m not proud of it, but man did my eyes glitter. Evilly.

“I have nothing wrapped,” I said. “But let’s be green. Who needs wrapping paper, anyway? Wanna open a couple of things tonight?”

Cool. He sat down on the sofa and waited while I dug around in my closet. He closed his eyes and held out his hands...rather widely apart. “Put your hands a little closer together. It’s not that big a box.”

He laughed and I put a small card into his hands. An iTunes gift card. He whooped.

He closed his eyes again and put his hands close together. “A little farther apart this time. It’s a bigger box,” I said.

I placed a small box in his hands. He opened his eyes and turned it over several times. Nothing on it to suggest what was inside, though he knew.

Out came an iPod Touch. Huge whoop.

“Turn it over, sweetie. It’s engraved. I tried to keep the mush factor to a minimum.”

Just a simple “Merry Christmas! I love you, Mom.” Nothing too embarrassing.

And that was it for the Solstice Eve shindig. We played with the iPod for quite a while. Just an amazing gadget and I SO want one now.

“Should I tell Dad that I got an iPod Touch?” he asked.

“No, I don’t think so. Don’t spoil it for him. It doesn’t hurt to have a spare, you know? This is our secret.”

This morning we got up early and made a huge breakfast with enough coffee to float a battleship. We played Christmas music and some appropriate Jethro Tull (Ring out, Solstice Bells). The snow started falling again. We made a crackling fire and finally settled down to open more stuff. And we had a blast. Different is not a bad thing. No matter how old they get, it’s still all about the kids. I loved watching the expressions that played across his face. I love cooking with him. I love picking music with him. I love listening to his stories. Well...I just love him. And having a good time with him.

We did fine. The Dad will have his day, too. And he was very surprised this morning when he learned what we’d done. It wasn’t what he expected. He wondered what the lad received and there was no mention of an iPod Touch. The lad winked at me as he left that off the list. Now he’s playing with his new toys and the Dad told me that he very much appreciates my decision. And incidentally, there were no other duplicate gifts. I did point out that it would have been a lot kinder if he had talked with me first without laying that load on the lad. Being asked to choose between parents is a hard thing and it just about tore the lad to pieces. Just not very cool. He was quiet about that, but maybe he gets it now. Dunno. But, it all worked out and I believe that we all have gained what we wanted...or needed.


Snowy day

Friday, 3:02 pm

By Kate




heavy snow

A week has scampered past since my last post, eh? Time does seem to fly. It has been a rather active week in this household.

On Monday, I drove down to Pennsylvania to pick up the lad. It’s a long trip, but I like to drive. There was a lot of traffic—way more than on the a weekend when I usually make the trip. As a result, I was able to drive much more slowly than usual. No one was in a particular hurry. I was curious to see how much fuel I’d save with the reduced speeds. Just curiosity. Turns out...quite a lot. Usually it takes 3/4 of a tank of gas to drive one way. This time, it took 2/3 of a tank. Driving there, anyway. Coming back, there was less traffic and speeds were a lot faster. Even in the slow lane, I had a few people ride my bumper flashing their high beams. New Jersey, naturally. So, I had to pick it up to around 70 mph, which was still slower than most everyone else. Going the speed limit or slightly less in the slow lane is simply not tolerated down there unless the traffic zeitgeist says so. Nevertheless, the round trip only used a total of a tank and a half of gas (my gas tank is 10 gallons). Quite gratifying. Anyone who suggests that driving more slowly doesn’t use less gasoline is misinformed.

In any event, we didn’t arrive home until just a few minutes before 3AM on Tuesday morning.

Ever since my kitchen has been a flurry of activity. The lad has been cooking his heart out. I am in severe danger of calorie overload. I’ve informed him that for every tasty and rich dish he prepares, that’s one extra mile we have to walk each day. He’s agreeable. I must say, however, that having someone cook for me is divine, gobs of butter notwithstanding.

This afternoon we’re snugged in while the weather rages outside. I’ve been treated to a concoction of bananas in some kind of decadent sauce, wrapped in a pastry and baked until bubbly. The wood stove is fired up and toasting us gently. The wood racks are overflowing. I believe the lad is doing something computer related in his room and here I am. Pretty soon I should start a hearty soup/stew on the stove, but I am so not hungry. The thought of food doesn’t appeal to me at all. I can’t even work up any enthusiasm for preparing something against the time that I am hungry. I’m not sure I’ll be hungry for the rest of the day. Or tomorrow, for that matter. I’ve been fed much too well this week. I need a day of fasting.

The snowstorm started about two hours ago and has accelerated to sideways snow and near-zero visibility. At some point, I suppose we will have to start shoveling to make room for the next snow storm on Sunday. By the end of today, we may have a foot or more of snow on the ground. It also sounds as if there is another storm in the works for Christmas Eve. There doesn’t seem to be any doubt that we will have a white Christmas this year.

I’m curious to see when the first snow plows will make the rounds. We still have rush hour coming up. The local powers-that-be have already stated that snow removal will be less frequent this year. And, on weekends, fergeddit. There are slim pickings in the coffers this year and it sounds as if we will learn to cope with a lot more snow on the roads than in years past. I’m not enthusiastic about that, given the way people drive around here. And I am supposed to drive the lad down to his Dad’s house tomorrow. Not sure if I will yet. The weather forecast suggests snow into tomorrow with another snow storm on Sunday. It seems like a lousy weekend for travel, especially with the plows parked in their garages.

Meanwhile, the little birds outside are on the deck, scratching in the snow trying to find the seeds I tossed out this morning. They’re brave little souls. I’m surprised that they are out—the wind roughs them up and knocks them around pretty thoroughly. But they are determined to have that last snack before bedtime. I wish that I had a protected/sheltered place for them to eat. Will have to think about that a little bit and devise something for them. My two little indoor birds would like to tell them that it’s quite lovely on the inside with food and water provided daily, heated perches, fun toys, and temperatures warm enough for luxurious and exuberant baths. On a day like this, I don’t imagine it’s very enjoyable being a wild bird.


Clumsy day

Saturday, 1:31 pm

By Kate





Well, I’m having one of those days. Everything I touch falls apart or malfunctions. I’ve brewed a complete pot of coffee all over the counter top. I still don’t know what happened there. None of the coffee went into the coffee pot. I had to clean off the counters and, in the process, I broke a tea cup. Then I made another pot of coffee and proceeded to knock two consecutive mugs full of coffee over. I had to mop the floor, and the mop head broke off the mop handle. And when I pulled the trash bag out of the trash can, it broke open all over the floor. I went down to the mailbox to gather mail and found a key in my mailbox. That key goes to the large box at the bottom of the bank of mailboxes, reserved for packages. I stuck the key in the lock and turned it. It went...sproiiiiing. The key froze in place and the lock didn’t open. My package is being held hostage.

I think I should sit in a chair for the rest of the day and not move a muscle. I’m afraid to think what else I could break. Should be doing laundry, but that’s a big piece of equipment to kill.

I should have known the minute I got out of bed. The very first thing I did was knock a glass of water off the dresser. Some days I’m a complete klutz. 


Long trip to make someone happy

Tuesday, 12:15 pm

By Kate





Stopping by the UPS and FedEx sites to check on where my packages are today, I was a little surprised to find the FedEx package in Shanghai this morning. That would be China. It started out in Kunshan. I’ll have to drag a map out to see where that is. It will be interesting to see where it goes next.

I am somewhat dismayed by the distance this object must travel on a great big airplane. This would be an Apple product, incidentally. I shouldn’t be surprised since practically everything is manufactured in China anymore, but I still am surprised.

I would like to see more “manufactured in the US” on some of these products, but until manufacturing outside the country becomes too financially onerous, I probably shouldn’t hold my breath. 


Feeling a bit festive

Monday, 4:06 pm

By Kate




clear night

My Christmas shopping is completed. It all appears to be in transit today and the last package should arrive on my doorstep by Friday. Not even a stocking stuffer left to find. I’m done! Whoo! Perhaps the first time ever that I’ve been completely finished this early. Of course, after compiling a list, it only took about 20 minutes to place the orders through Amazon...with one little foray into Steve Jobs’ little domain. Somebody’s gonna have a cool Christmas. I’m envious!!


The front of the house is decorated. All the icicle lights are strung and the kissing balls hung. Along with a couple of wreaths. My neighbor gets so excited about decorating for Christmas. She makes it a lot of fun because she simply radiates happiness during the process. I think we look quite festive. And no inflated characters or whatnot sitting in the front yard. Thank heavens.


I have found the most delicious recipe for gingerbread! It is dark and rich and moist and oh my gosh, just this side of paradise. Maybe one foot over into paradise. There is a half devoured loaf on my counter. The rest may not make into tomorrow, either. I’ll have to make some more. Oh my word, it is so good. A pot of tea and fresh gingerbread on a cold is good, indeed.


Today is a very cold day. With the wind, we were looking at about a 2° wind chill. When outside in it, I can appreciate the wind chill factor. Or not. I had to go outside and reattach and anchor the tarp over the woodpile this morning. The raging wind peeled it off last night, which, fortunately, happened after the snow stopped. Still dry wood. I swear that tarp will not budge an inch now, no matter how the winds howl. I also brought about a week and a half supply of wood in the house. Somewhere around 130 logs, filling two wood racks. The wood may last even longer—we’re supposed to have a couple of days near 60° later this week.


Sometime, in the next week, I’ll be making my annual trek to Pennsylvania to collect the lad. As of yesterday, he hadn’t received his exam schedule, so I’m not sure yet which day I’ll be leaving. Sometime between Friday and the following Tuesday. I’m so happy that the price of gasoline has dropped to a four year low. I filled the tank this afternoon and it cost the grand sum of $16. That means a pretty cheap trip coming up. I can live with that. It will be nice to have the lad home. Very.


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