The Long Goodbye

Eleanor Agnes (Quallich) Lock
September 13, 1916 – March 22, 2015

Rest in peace, Grandma. Say “hi” to Pop for me when you see him.

Early last July I got a phone call from my Mom. Grandma had fallen and broken her hip. Because of her age (almost 98) and some long-standing health problems, she was not considered a good candidate for surgery in order to repair the break. So she would be bed- and wheelchair-bound and was being moved to the nursing wing of the assisted living facility where she had been living for the past several years. Mom and Dad both thought that that was pretty much that, and that she was likely to decline rapidly. So they encouraged me to come up to Cleveland without too much delay so that I could have the opportunity to see her one last time and say goodbye.

Which I did. Less then two weeks later found John and I on a special trip up to Cleveland to see her.

I was able to tell her how much I loved her, how much I looked up to and admired her, how much she meant to me, and how much I was going to miss her. I was able to thank her for being the best Grandmother that anyone could have asked for. And we even managed to laugh a little bit over some memories of our time together when I was little.

Fast forward nine months, because Grandma was a tough old bird.

I talked to my folks on Sunday evening, as I often do, and they told me that she had gone downhill rapidly over the last couple of days. She hadn’t even recognized my Mom when she had visited.

She died peacefully in her sleep that night.

And the following Friday morning I drove up to Cleveland for the wake and the funeral.

It was nice that my brothers were all able to fly in from California. Kevin and Christine even brought Max with them… allowing me to meet him for the first time. My uncles and aunts and cousins were there, as well as many members of the extended family that I hadn’t seen in years. Even Kay and Tony Bonanno, some old friends of the family came, which was especially touching as Tony has been battling metastatic cancer.

Bittersweet weekend.

Nice seeing so many family members and old friends of the family. Sad that it had to be at a funeral. Sadder that it is probably the last time that I will see many of them (save at another funeral).

Grandma was a big influence on me. She passed on her loves of gardening, of cooking, and of antiques. She put together three cookbooks of favorite family recipes, which I use regularly. I still have not mastered her pumpkin chiffon pie, though I have figured out her yellow sunshine cake. I enjoyed going to glass shows with her and my Mom, and she passed on a lot of her glassware – along with anecdotes about the pieces – to me. “These were my mother’s candy dishes. I can remember coming home from school as a little girl and sneaking a piece or two of penny candy out of them before dinner.” And now they are my candy dishes, and I keep candy in them as well. The glass piece are beautiful, and I am sure that some of them are quite valuable. But honestly, the family connections and the stories about them are as valuable to me as the pieces themselves.

I will miss you Grandma. But I will remember you every time I cook your recipes, and every time I work in the garden, and every time I use the glassware that you gave to me. Thank you for everything. I am so glad that I had you in my life.

At the wake my family had set out some lovely photos of Grandma and Pop at their wedding in 1947. Grandma was so beautiful, and Pop was handsome. They were a great couple.

Grandma and Pop, formal wedding portrait

Grandma and Pop, formal wedding portrait

Formal portrait of Grandma, Pop, and their wedding party

Formal portrait of Grandma, Pop, and their wedding party

Grandma and Pop at their reception

Grandma and Pop at their reception

Grandma and Pop at the reception

Grandma and Pop at the reception with the wedding party and some other family and friends

Grandma and Pop, cutting their wedding cake

Grandma and Pop, cutting their wedding cake

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April 2nd, 2015 at 5:46 pm

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I am not a crafty person.  I don’t craft, and especially, I don’t sew… not very well and only with great muttering and gnashing of teeth.

And yet, when my parents came to visit last summer, they brought with them a box of my high school papers (they are cleaning out their storage space) assorted other items …and the pieces of The Quilt.

Mom originally started making The Quilt over 20 years ago, and it was supposed to be a high school graduation/good luck in college present.  But it wasn’t quite finished in time.  It also wasn’t quite finished yet when I graduated from college, when I got into graduate school, when I graduated from graduate school, when I got my first “real” post-graduate-school job, and when I got married.  When she asked me what I would like as a wedding present, I (jokingly) said that I would like the quilt, but the thousand-eye milk glass pitcher (from the 1880’s) which I had long admired would also be nice.  I got the pitcher.

Giving me the pieces was a major concession on my Mom’s part, and an admission that she was never going to finish it, and that it was up to me to decide what to do.  I decided to finish it off.

Making more squares to fill out the hidden wells pattern wouldn’t have worked out well.  There was no way to get more of or to match fabric that had been purchased 20 years ago, and trying to integrate new fabric into the pattern wouldn’t have looked right.  So I decided to just finish sewing together what squares I had, and then do a double picture frame style border.

John helped me to pick out new fabric for the border, and over Thanksgiving I spent a lot of time in the sewing room working on the border and the quilt top.

working on the quilt

The cats “helped”.

this is the kind of help you get from cats

Sarah knew someone who had a quilting business and a longarm quilting machine, so I was able to outsource that portion of the work. In early December I went over to her place with the quilt top, the backing, and the batting, and we looked over quilting patterns until I found the one I liked that worked well with the fabrics in the quilt top.

A couple of weeks ago she contacted me to let me know that the quilt was done, and that I could come pick it up. Fortunately for me, when I stopped by to get it, she also went over what I would need to do to bind the edges and finish off the quilt.

close up of the quilt

another close up of the quilt

full sized, draped over the couch

It is a little smaller then a standard double-bed size.

I did mess up the binding a little bit in one part – I flubbed turning the corner – but I don’t think that it is that noticeable.

I think that it looks pretty good.

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January 19th, 2015 at 12:41 pm

Posted in family

The word of the year

If I had to choose a single word to represent all of 2014, I think that word would be – boxes.  Lots and lots of boxes.

Really, there has been a lot going on this year, much of which I have gritted my teeth through and haven’t felt ready to talk about, and much of which involved the boxes.

The cats have been both delighted and dismayed.  Lots of boxes to jump in and out of and climb all over!  Every time furniture is moved, treasure troves of cat toys are uncovered!  Rooms that were previously forbidden to them are now open!  But… the landscape of their world is changing, changing, changing… and you know how cats feel about change.

I have also been somewhat dismayed.  I don’t like change much more then cats, and it is always unsettling to watch your life vanish into a series of cardboard boxes.  Plus there is the ever present worry of “what if I accidentally pack something that I need?  How will I figure out which box it is in?”


2015 is going to be a very exciting year.


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December 31st, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Posted in daily life

Dead wood and other vingettes

Dead wood

It has been chilly lately, so last night we lit the first fire of the season in the fireplace.

The wood was from the trees in the front yard.  The former trees, I should say.  We had a couple of really dry summers, and the trees were never quite the same afterwards.  Back in the spring, John gave them both pretty severe trims… the idea being that maybe if we got rid of all of the dead and dying branches they would perk up a little.  Well, it didn’t really work.

Then a month or so ago one of our neighbors had some yard maintenance folks over to tuck their flower beds and such in for the winter, and one of the workers came and knocked on our door.  He wanted to make sure that we knew that the trees were, in fact, dying, and that his company could give us a deal on their removal.  So for $300 we had the trees taken down, chopped into rounds which were stacked in the garage, and the stumps ground out.  Pretty good deal.

We let the rounds dry out for a little bit, and then John rented a log splitter so that we could take the rounds down into a size more convenient for the fireplace.  While he was splitting them, he found a lot of grubs bored into the wood – emerald ash borers.  I guess we know why those trees died.

(We will just have to remember not to transport the wood anywhere.)


For the past couple of Halloweens, we have avoided the entire holiday by going camping in the Smokies instead.  However, since we were home this year, we decided to “do” Halloween.

We carved the pumpkins, we roasted the seeds, we laid in a supply of candy.

And on Halloween it rained, and then it sleeted, and then late in the night the sleet turned into the first snowfall of the year.

We don’t really have a great neighborhood for trick-or-treating at the best of times – there are no streetlights (though all of the houses have lamp-poles in the front yards) and there are no sidewalks.  But this year was especially bad.  We got a total of 15 trick-or-treaters before we turned off the porch light and blew out the pumpkins after 8.

We did have caramel apple martinis while we watched Beetlejuice, so it wasn’t all bad.


There is a stray cat who has been coming around our house since early in the summer.

A couple of weeks ago I noted how skinny he was, and started to offer some food whenever he came by.  It took a little while but eventually I was able to approach and pet him while he ate.  And he really is just skin and bones under a lot of main-coon-style fur (which is rather matted and tangled).  I am pretty sure that his front feet are declawed as well.  For sure he was someone’s pet.  And going by his current state I don’t think that he is an indoor/outdoor cat either…

We can’t keep him for many reasons.  Not least of which are Percival and Veena, who do not think much of his occasional presence at the front or back door.

An Ohio winter is no place for a homeless cat, so as soon as he trusts me enough that I can pick him up, he will become a temporary guest in our garage… at least until we can get him to the Dayton Humane Society or another local no-kill shelter.

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November 9th, 2014 at 2:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

An essay on how I spent my July 4 holiday week

Last year, John and I went to Cedar Point, stayed in Breakers Hotel, rode all of the rollercoasters multiple times, and had a wonderful holiday.

This year we painted the house.  The house is a half brick (the first floor) half stucco and timber (the second floor) Tudor style. The stucco and timber portion had started to look increasingly lifeless and ragged and in need of some TLC.  Initially we thought that it might be a good idea to simply replace the stucco and timber with (easy to maintain) vinyl siding.  So we contacted a bunch of different contractors and asked for quotes on that and were knocked flat by the sticker shock of it all.  The quotes averaged around ten thousand dollars (ten thousand dollars!) to put siding up on half of a house.  Ten thousand dollars was not in the budget.  Vinyl siding was out.

Plan B was to keep the stucco and timber (which we honestly like the look of) and simply (simply!) do all of the necessary repainting and repairing ourselves.

This never would have gotten done if we tried to piecemeal it out over weekends only, so we took advantage of the long weekend and took the whole of the 4th of July week off.  To paint.  It also would never have gotten done if we relied on ladders and scaffolding.  (The scaffolding would have been especially problematic given the bushes on two sides of the house, the trees out front, and the vegetable garden out back.)    So we rented a hydraulic bucket lift.

bucket lift

It cost about $500 to rent for the week.  And worth every single penny.  John hauled it around the house with his car and there were only a few places where it couldn’t reach, where we had to use ladders and scaffolding or clamber around on the roof.  We would never have gotten the painting done by ourselves without all of the help from our friend, the hydraulic bucket lift.   Granted, it did tear the lawn up a little bit, but grass seed is cheap.  (Total costs for doing it ourselves… bucket lift + paint + wood + brushes and rollers and paint trays + grass seed = a little over two thousand dollars.  A lot less then ten thousand dollars.)

The bucket lift hard at work

This was Zeno’s project… because the further we got into it, the longer stuff took.  At the beginning, it seemed like everything went very quickly, primarily because we were painting large expanses of stucco, and it was easy to see the progress being made.  Once we got to the more finicky portions, like the trim work, things slowed down.  A lot.

We re-painted all of the stucco, all of the wood trim, and repaired/replaced parts of the trim as needed.  We painted the porch.  We painted the garden shed.

We are actually still not quite done, as there are still a few little bits of the trim work that need to be finished.

And like all good projects, it has spawned additional projects.  Because while the ladders and such are out, we might as well clean and fix the gutters.  And we should really repaint the front and back doors to match the trim.  And maybe do the deck as well.

One of these days we will be able to sit back, say that we are 100% done with this project, toast ourselves… and move on to the next project.  Because as long as you own a house, you never need a hobby.

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July 15th, 2014 at 7:41 am

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The garden is coming along well. So far the tomatoes and peppers are the early winners. The eggplants just have flowers so far. Actually, the tomatoes started flowering and fruiting so early, that for a while John and I were concerned that the growth of the plants would be stunted.

Yes, those are black tomatoes. The variety is called Indigo Rose.  They start out greenish, turn dark purple-black all over, and when they turn bright red on the bottom, they are ripe.

Every year we have tomato plants that just pop-up… “volunteers” from last year’s tomato crop. This year we had an unusual number of volunteer tomato plants – over 20 – so this past weekend I transplanted the largest 10 into containers on the deck and a secondary plot of land next to the deck, moved some of them into the spaces between the tomato cages, and simply weeded out the rest.  Eventually there will be no need to buy and plant tomato seedlings… we will simply till the soil, and wait to see what starts growing.  Then transplant what we want to keep into the tomato cages and wait to see what varieties we got.

I can’t believe that this used to be a tiny peppermint seedling. Now it is trying to escape from the pot.

Deer and rabbits have always been an issue for us, especially since we live so close to the arboretum.  Deer regularly pass through at dusk and before dawn, moving between the arb and where ever it is that they spend the rest of their time.  And the rabbits are always there.  We put down the stinky deer and rabbit repellent around our garden and grin and bear it and cross our fingers.  Lately, however we have been seeing more deer then usual.

The other day I looked up from weeding (in the middle of the afternoon) and there was a tiny fawn – a really bambi-sized little one – standing about 10 feet away, watching me.  No mama in sight.  He panicked when I stood up, and took off for the back corner of the yard and bounced off of the neighbor’s fence a few times (too tall for him to jump over) before getting turned around and dashing for the street.  I saw him several times over several days… always in the daytime, and always alone.  I figured that mama was out of the picture for some reason, maybe hit by a car, and I hoped that I wouldn’t see the fawn dead on the side of the road one day while driving through the neighborhood.  Turns out that mama is still around… I did see the two of them together finally.  It turns out that she easily jumps the backyard fences that are too high for the fawn to get over.  I bet that they get separated a lot that way.  They sure are cute.  And I do like seeing wildlife in the backyard.

I just hope that they stay out of my vegetable garden.

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June 18th, 2014 at 3:09 pm

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How to Inadvertently Train Your Cat

I made a mistake with Veena. I admit it. The mistake is that I accidentally trained her to not sit on my lap when John is around. I don’t like being the bad guy with her, so I get John to do the things that upset her… like restrain her while he clips her nails, or shoo her off my lap when I need to get up but don’t have the heart to move her off of my lap myself.

So now she hesitates to get up on the couch when both of us are sitting on it (she is fine when it is just me on the couch) and that’s a problem because evenings on the couch with John watching a movie or some TV or otherwise unwinding are when I most want a lap cat.


So I know what I did wrong. Now I have to figure out how to undo it.

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May 25th, 2014 at 3:11 pm

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Spring has sprung

I love spring. Everything is blooming. The weather is (finally) getting warmer. The sun stays above the horizon later and later in the spring.

I hate spring. Everything is blooming. My eyes itch and water, and I cannot breathe freely without wheezing and sneezing, and coughing. Damn allergies! However, after extensive experimentation with drug combinations, I think that I have hit on the winning combination. Zyrtech with a double-dose of sudafed layered on top. That about does it for me.

The big accomplishment of the weekend is that we planted the garden.

  • 20 tomatoes (super sweet 100 cherry tomatoes, black krim, black cherry, mr.stripey, lemon boy, yellow pear, black prince, mortgage lifter, beefsteak)
  • 5 sweet peppers (3 green and 2 red)
  • 4 hot peppers (mucho nacho jalapenos)
  • 4 eggplant
  • 4 basil (2 green and 2 purple)
  • sage (leftover from last year)
  • 2 rosemary
  • 2 greek oregano
  • 2 mint (1 sweet and 1 chocolate)
  • 5 lavender

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May 4th, 2014 at 12:52 pm

Posted in daily life

At the end of the road

If you are on the Big Island of Hawaii, you can take highway 130 in Puna down past Keaau, past Pahala, all of the way to where it ends in Kalapana.  In 1990 a lava flow covered most of the town and the Kaimu black sand beach.

Today if you drive out there, you get to a viewing area where you can watch lava pour into the ocean.  You can also walk over the lava flow toward the sea, where coconuts have been planted as part of a land reclamation project and where a new black sand beach is forming.

John and I were in Hawaii toward the end of March. We stayed in a vacation rental up in Volcano near the National Park and spent our days hiking, swimming, and wandering around exploring the Puna region. I have finally started to edit and upload my photos, and they can be found here on flickr.

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April 23rd, 2014 at 9:50 am

Posted in holidays,Photography

One year

Hi Merlin.  It has been a whole year and I still miss you…

Here’s to you.

















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February 12th, 2014 at 10:07 am

Posted in daily life,Uncategorized

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